US President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged the release of three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to long prison terms in Egypt for aiding the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Addressing a conference at the end of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Obama emphasized the right of journalists to play a critical role in their societies.
"We have been very consistent in pushing governments not just in Africa, but around the world, to respect the right of journalists to practice their trade as a critical part of civil society and a critical part of any democratic norm," Obama told reporters in Washington.
"In the specific issue of the Al-Jazeera journalists, we have been clear both publicly and privately, they should be released," he added at the news conference.
Three Al Jazeera English journalists were sentenced in June to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years for spreading false news and aiding the Brotherhood, a group now outlawed and designated a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities..
The case against Australian journalist Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian and Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed had sparked an international outcry and heightened fears of the muzzling of media freedoms in Egypt.
US secretary of State John Kerry condemned the verdict at the time as a "chilling and draconian sentence."