Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera has called for protests outside Egyptian embassies across the world on Thursday to demand the release of four of its journalists detained in Egypt, some of whom are accused of terror-related charges.
Award-winning Australian reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed have been in custody since late December, when they were arrested at a Cairo hotel over an alleged illegal broadcast. The trio works at the network's English-language channel.
Their trial over accusations of "airing false new" and "aiding or joining a terrorist group," along with 17 other reporters who prosecutors allege belong to the Doha-based network, began last week but was adjourned to 8 March.
The terrorism-related charges are a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood group, which the authorities designated a terrorist organisation in December. The group vehemently denies any links to violence.
The trial has received international solidarity from journalists and top editors of global media organisations who have signed letters demanding that the detained journalists be freed.
Al Jazeera Arabic's Abdullah Al-Shamy has been detained without charge since 14 August 2013, and has been on hunger strike since 23 January, the media network said.
"Al Jazeera hopes through the attention of the world’s media and partners, pressure can be brought to bear on the Egyptian authorities to hasten the release of Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Abdullah Al-Shamy by reminding them in a united voice, that journalism is not a crime," the network said in a statement on Wednesday.
The media campaign will include protest vigils in 30 cities across the world on Thursday in which international media rights organisations will take part, as well as online petitions to embassies to condemn the arrests, Ghassan Abu Hussein, Al Jazeera's international relations manager, told a news conference in Doha.
Egyptian authorities accuse the Al Jazeera network of giving favourable coverage to the Brotherhood movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
Mohamed Badr, an Al Jazeera television cameraman freed in Egypt earlier this month after seven months of detention, told the news conference he had been abused and subject to regular torture and tough treatment by security during his detention.
Badr was arrested, with others, in July over charges of committing acts of violence while covering protests in central Cairo days after the ouster of Morsi.
The clampdown on journalists has drawn international condemnation from the White House, the European Union and the United Nations. They have called for the release of the journalists and for the protection of press freedom in Egypt.