An Egyptian court which jailed three journalists for “spreading false news” has issued a statement explaining its decision.
Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Geste, who work for the Al-Jazeera news network, were given jail sentences of seven to ten years after reporting on the brutal repression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the military coup of 2013.
The court said that the journalists had “falsified the truth” and that “the devil guided them to use journalism and direct it towards activities against this nation.”
The military regime in Egypt believes that Al Jazeera works on behalf of Qatar, where the network is based. The Qatari government was close to the Morsi government, and condemned the army’s massacre of over a thousand Brotherhood supporters.
Several other journalists were convicted in absentia by the same court, and are now unable to return to Egypt without risking capture and imprisonment.
In an interview with Prezz Gazette, Al Jazeera journalist Dominic Kane said that he is now unable to visit around 75 countries where he fears he would be handed over to the Egyptian authorities. Since those tried in absentia have not handed themselves in, the sentence will hang over them for the rest of their lives, unless a pardon is granted.
Media trade unions around the world continue to campaign for the release of the three prisoners.
In the UK, members of the National Union of Journalists held a protest on 16 July. The imprisonment represents an attack on free speech and a free press, and an attempt by a military regime to scare journalists away from reporting on its crimes.