OFFICIAL STATEMENT
For Immediate Release
 

PEN American Center is appalled by today’s conviction in Cairo of Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed on charges that vilify their coverage of the 2013 military coup in Egypt. Several students were also convicted on charges that they collaborated with the journalists. The conviction, drawing on a trial devoid of any credible evidence against the accused, demonstrates a blatant disregard for the universally guaranteed right to free expression.  PEN American Center calls for the immediate release of the journalists and students, and an end to the judicial and security force harassment of journalists, bloggers, writers, and other intellectuals in Egypt.

The verdict comes a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo and expressed confidence that the United States would resume its $1.3 billion annual aid package to Egypt, noting his sense of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s new commitment to “a re-evaluation of human rights legislation.” PEN American Center calls on Secretary Kerry to join Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom in making an immediate public disavowal of the verdicts to underscore the importance to the U.S. of a free and open press in Egypt and the general protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, in accordance with American aid provisions.

Ten journalists have been killed while reporting in Egypt in the years since 2011, and another fifteen are currently in prison according the Committee to Protect Journalists. President Sisi’s recent warning to news editors not to “scare people” or breed “skepticism” by reporting official corruption and wrongdoing underlines a progressive deterioration of gains made for free expression in Egypt during the 2011 uprising and subsequent ouster of Hosni Mubarak. PEN America expresses its support for and solidarity with Greste, Fahmy, Mohamed, and all writers facing persecution in Egypt.

PEN American Center
New York, NY USA
June 23, 2014

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 3,500 writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide.

CONTACT
Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager: sedkins@pen.org, t. 212-334-1660 x 116, m. 617-947-6512
Dominic Moran, Director of Free Expression Programs: dmoran@pen.org, t. 212.334.1660 x 105