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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

June 23, 2014 - 1:17 pm

The White House called the verdicts against three Al Jazeera journalists convicted in Egypt of assisting the Muslim Brotherhood a ruling that “flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt.”

Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven years behind bars for “spreading false news,” falsely portraying Egypt as being in a state of “civil war,” and aiding the Brotherhood. Mohamed received an extra three years on his sentence for possessing ammunition.

Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said the journalists were imprisoned “for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists.”

“There were many moments during the hearings where in any other court of law, the trial would be thrown out,” Anstey said. “There were numerous irregularities in addition to the lack of evidence to stand up the ill-conceived allegations.”

“Perhaps most disturbing is that this verdict comes as part of a succession of prosecutions and verdicts that are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and democratic governance. These include the prosecution of peaceful protesters and critics of the government, and a series of summary death sentences in trials that fail to achieve even a semblance of due process,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

An Egyptian court recently affirmed a death sentence against the Brotherhood’s leader, Mohamed Badie.

“It should be emphasized that the victims in these cases are not just the defendants and journalism more broadly, but the Egyptian people, who have courageously asserted their demands for the fundamental freedoms to which all are entitled. We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences so they can be released immediately, and grant clemency for all politically motivated sentences – starting with the other defendants in this trial,” Earnest added.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the sentences for the Al Jazeera crew “chilling” and “draconian.”

“Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance,” Kerry said in a statement.

“As I shared with President al-Sisi during my visit to Cairo, the long term success of Egypt and its people depends on the protection of universal human rights, and a real commitment to embracing the aspirations of the Egyptians for a responsive government. Egyptian society is stronger and sustainable when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. Today’s verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law. I spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry again today to make very clear our deep concerns about these convictions and sentences,” he continued.

“Yesterday, President al-Sisi and I frankly discussed these issues and his objectives at the start of his term as President. I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the rule of law. The Egyptian government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
Top Rated Comments   
Obama said "they were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood? I thought that's my job?"
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chilling and draconian... kinda like a government tax authority violating the law left and right and then trashing emails and computers when someone comes around asking questions.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
How about our Marine sitting in a Mexican jail?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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This from an administration that targeted conservatives to prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to free speech. Only a racist bastard, abandoned by his mother, would find this logical.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Even Egyptians know those folks didn't do anything wrong. The message is loud and clear from Egypt to Qatar: stay out of our business. Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood has been conspicuous. End of story.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama said "they were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood? I thought that's my job?"
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
An Egyptian court convicted journalists of twisting their reports until they were complete fabrications in order to support a murderous and tyrannical regime of sociopaths.

Any chance we can import some of those Egyptian judges over here? Immigrants that would actually be of benefit to the United States.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
What a stupid comment. Do you know anything about the case? There was nothing twisted or fabricated about the news reports at all. These guys are in jail for the usual reason, i.e. some despot didn't like what they wrote. Or would you like these judges that you admire so much to immigrate to the US and trash the first amendment?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula ring a bell?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chilling and draconian... kinda like a government tax authority violating the law left and right and then trashing emails and computers when someone comes around asking questions.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
How about our Marine sitting in a Mexican jail?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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