National Press Club

Press Club criticizes harsh sentences of Al Jazeera English journalists

June 24, 2014 | By Rachel Oswald |

The National Press Club on Tuesday strongly protested the sentencing of three Al Jazeera reporters by an Egyptian court and renewed its urging for their prompt release.

"The judicial treatment that these three journalists have received is horrendous and their sentencing is completely draconian and not at all in line with what one should expect of the commitment to press freedom by a U.S. ally," said Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club.

An Egyptian judge on Monday sentenced both Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent, and Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian journalist, to seven years for reporting on events that showed Egyptian civil discord in alleged collaboration with the locally outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The third Al Jazeera journalist, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, received a longer sentence of 10 years because he was allegedly found in possession of a weapon that, according to Al Jazeera, was a single bullet casing he picked up as a souvenir from a protest.

The three journalists work for Al Jazeera's English-language network and all have prior experience working for other well-known international news outlets. They have been imprisoned since late December 2013. Their jailing and treatment has been widely criticized by rights groups and press freedom advocates, who say the trial was highly politicized and that the prosecution failed to prove the journalists did anything other than report the facts.

The trio's sentencing occurred the day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signaled during a visit to Cairo that the United States was ready to resume its close military relationship with Egypt. U.S. military ties with Egypt have been cool since last summer when the Egyptian Army, led by now-president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, toppled the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Morsi.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the Club speaks out on behalf of reporters worldwide.