Print options

February 04, 2014

East Africa Journalists Demand Release of Reporters Held in Egypt

by Mohammed Yusuf

Journalists based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, are protesting the detention of colleages arrested by authorities in Egypt. 

At least 100 journalists and civil society activists marched to the Egyptian embassy in Nairobi in an effort to put more pressure on the Egyptian government to release journalists with al-Jazeera television. Tuesday's protest was organized by members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa.  

Association co-chair Robyn Kriel read a letter addressed to Peter Greste, a correspondent based in Nairobi who was arrested in Egypt while on temporary assignment late last year. She said they applaud Greste’s bravery and professionalism, and said his battle is the battle of all journalists.

“We have gathered here outside the Egyptian embassy in Nairobi today to deliver this letter and stand in solidarity with you and your colleagues from Al Jazeera," Kriel said. "Those of us who are journalists stand as you.  'We are all Peter Greste' and that is one of the slogans here today.”

Greste, along with two colleagues, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, have been held in custody for more than a month without charge.  

A staff member from sister channel al-Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah al-Shami, has been in custody since August.    

The letter read by Kriel said journalism does not equal terrorism, and Greste and his colleagues have committed no crimes.

Egypt's prosecutor-general has said he intends to prosecute 16 Egyptian nationals and four foreign journalists working for the al-Jazeera broadcast network.  They face charges of aiding a terrorist group and harming the national interest.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed grave concerns about the treatment of journalists in Egypt.

The group's East Africa representative, Tom Rhodes, says there are more and more journalists who are being held without charges.

“One thing we should note however, they are 10 confirmed cases of journalists incarcerated in Egypt at the moment, some with charges, some without charges," Rhodes said.  "When I say 10, these are the only ones we can confirm, there is more likely around 20 to 25 actually in prison at the moment.  One of the largest crackdown of journalists we have seen in a long time.”

In Peter Greste’s second letter from prison, posted on Al Jazeera's website, he writes, “I am keen to see what 'evidence' the investigators have concocted to prove the allegations.  But to date we have not been formally charged with any crime.”