National Press Club

Egyptian reporter, National Press Club urge release of Cairo's jailed journalists

September 29, 2014 | By John M. Donnelly |

Al Jazeera reporter Abdullah Elshamy (center) with NPC president Myron Belkind (right) and John M. Donnelly, chair of the NPC Freedom of the Press Committee (left).

Al Jazeera reporter Abdullah Elshamy (center) with NPC president Myron Belkind (right) and John M. Donnelly, chair of the NPC Freedom of the Press Committee (left).

Photo/Image: Brent Gwathney

A reporter whom Egyptian authorities had imprisoned without charge for 10 months has issued a video statement at the National Press Club urging the government in Cairo to release at least 11 other journalists who are still in jail.

Abdullah Elshamy, a reporter for Al Jazeera Arabic, was imprisoned from August 2013 until June 2014. During his incarceration, he was on a hunger strike for about half a year, and he lost about a third of his body weight.

Elshamy was released on medical grounds. But three other Al Jazeera reporters remain in prison in Egypt: Australian Peter Greste and Egyptians Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. They were imprisoned on allegations of helping a terrorist organization (the Muslim Brotherhood), and they have been sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail.

In a Sept. 26 visit with leaders of the National Press Club, Elshamy thanked them for their statements of support for imprisoned reporters in Egypt and beyond. Attention to the plight of detained reporters is vital to keep their spirits alive and can help secure their release, he added.

"Statements by the National Press Club and other news outlets here in the United States and across the globe really helped in my release," he said in a video statement.

Elshamy said the focus now should be on those reporters remaining in jail in Egypt and other nations.

"I am going to be resilient as much as I can in order to make sure that journalists--either back in my home country, my colleagues who are still in jail and other journalists as well and journalists anywhere around the world--get to work in a free environment," he said. "This is not for me, this is not for Al Jazeera, where I work, or not even for journalists here only in the United States. It’s for everyone around the globe. Because when we have a free press, we have a better society. People get the ability to say what they have on their minds and get to know things as they are."

Club President Myron Belkind noted that Egypt can only consider itself a democracy when it respects human rights and press freedom.

"Democracies thrive when reporters are free to do their jobs, and any nation that jails reporters for essentially doing their jobs is no true democracy," Belkind said. "We strongly encourage the Egyptian government to free the reporters it has imprisoned and to move toward a free press and a more open government."

Similarly, President Barack Obama has urged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release journalists jailed in Egypt. Obama made the request at a Sept. 25 meeting with el-Sisi in New York City during the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, the White House spokesman has said.

The National Press Club, founded in 1908, is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the Club speaks out on behalf of press freedom and transparency worldwide.