Egypt: Al-Jazeera pardon one step forward on the long road to press freedom
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—The release from jail today of Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed is a promising move for Egypt, but highlights the remaining hurdles to press freedom of a highly flawed Egyptian legal system, PEN said in a statement today.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pardoned Fahmy and Mohamed along with 100 other prisoners on the eve of Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday.
“After a lengthy, politicized trial and retrial, the release today of Fahmy and Mohamed comes as a great relief to their families, friends, and supporters alike,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center. “But this pardon is a drop in the bucket of the effort needed to ensure that free expression is protected in Egypt, where a historic legacy of innovation, academia, and storytelling remains at risk. In addition to releasing the 18 or more other journalists and bloggers unjustly jailed for their work, Egypt must put an end to a series of laws enacted in the last two years that have successively silenced any and every voice that does not speak in unison with the government.”
Fahmy and Mohamed were first arrested with their colleague Peter Greste on December 29, 2013, shortly after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government. After a protracted legal process, the three were sentenced on appeal in August to three years in prison on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been deemed a terrorist organization by the military government, spreading false news, and working without a license. Greste was convicted in absentia after being deported to his home country of Australia in February.
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,200 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide.