National Press Club

National Press Club Questions Egyptian President's Accusations on Jailed Journalists

March 18, 2015 | By John Donnelly | JDonnelly@cq.com

The National Press Club questioned the veracity of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's recent accusation that two Al Jazeera journalists who were imprisoned in his country were "activists."

"The Al Jazeera English journalists who were jailed for months in Egypt were simply doing their jobs," said John Hughes, president of the National Press Club. "Tarring them as something other than objective observers is unfair and inaccurate. But it's typical of the kind of canard that dictators use to suppress reporting they don't like."

The two Al Jazeera English journalists, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed, were released from an Egyptian prison last month after spending more than a year behind bars on terror-related charges that international observers had denounced as a sham. The two were freed pending their retrial, which is now underway. Baher Mohamed was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison and Mohammed Fahmy to seven years but Egypt's top appeals court subsequently ordered a retrial.

A third co-worker, Peter Greste, had been freed earlier and was deported to his home-country, Australia.

El-Sissi recently told a group of visiting African journalists that two Al Jazeera English journalists had "turned into activists instead of objective journalists." He also accused the network of fabricating film footage of dead children in Libya after a recent Egyptian air strike in that country.

"Despite false accusations of inaccurate reporting by Egyptian media, all witnesses of the attack verified the authenticity of the Al Jazeera report," Al Jazeera Arabic reported on Feb. 16.