AHEAD of Australian journalist Peter Greste’s trial in Cairo this week, Amnesty International held a rally outside the Egyptian consulate in Sydney yesterday to protest the Egyptian authorities’ continued crackdown on press freedom.
Last December, Peter Greste and fellow Al Jazeera staff Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were detained by Egyptian authorities and charged with alleged terrorism related charges for airing misleading news about Egypt’s political situation.
“We consider Peter Greste and his detained colleagues to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released,” Michael Hayworth, Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Spokesperson, said.
Amnesty International staff members alongside fellow media industry colleagues and friends will be rallying in solidarity with the journalists as part of a global campaign, #FreeAJEstaff. Later this week, an Amnesty online action will be launched calling on greater press freedom in Egypt.
“Journalists cannot operate freely in a climate of fear. These developments are blatant attempts to stifle independent reporting in Egypt and show the complete disregard for a free press,” said Hayworth.
Egypt has witnessed an alarming escalation in attacks on press freedom since July 2013, with a number of journalists facing arrest for reporting on human rights violations carried out by the security forces.
A further 17 Al Jazeera staff members were also referred to trial last month, accused of belonging to a terrorist group and spreading false news about the political situation in Egypt. It is feared they were arrested in connection with their journalistic work.
“In the lead up to elections, a free press is essential.
“Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to respect freedom of expression and allow journalists to carry out independent reporting into all issues, including criticizing the government, without the threat of intimidation or arrest,” Hayworth added.