General prosecutor accuses Al-Jazeera journalists of breaking press laws

Ahram Online, Thursday 16 Jan 2014

Attorney General Hisham Barakat said in a press release that journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed violated Egypt press laws that guard national security

The logo of Al Jazeera Media Network is seen at the MIPTV, the International Television Programs Market, event in Cannes 2 April, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's general prosecuter accused detained Al-Jazeera English reporters of violating Egyptian press laws that safeguard national security and the interests of the country.

Attorney General Hisham Barakat said in a press release that journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have been imprisoned since December 29, face several charges that include possessing wireless communications devices without permission, belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading false news that could endanger national security.

In a press release Barakat said the press law states that journalism is practiced with freedom, has a responsibility to serve the community and spreads public opinion without boundaries. However, the law criminalises breaches of national security.

Barakat denied accusations that the arrest of these journalists represents a crackdown on press and media freedom in Egypt.

The prosecutor emphasized "independence from any partisan affiliations and integration with the judiciary."

“Some of the accused have admitted during the investigation belonging to the [Muslim Brotherhood],” the statement said. “The Australian accused [Greste] is the one responsible for adding or removing material to fabricate graphic scenes.”

The Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood movement a "terrorist group" last December.

More than 50 correspondents and editors of international news organizations signed an online petition on January 13 that calls for the immediate release of the Al-Jazeera journalists.

“We also call for the release of other journalists who have been detained in Egypt, some of whom have been arbitrarily imprisoned for over five months,” the statement said.

In the statement, the journalists also called for upholding the rights of journalists and permitting the free flow of information. CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet, and BBC news editor Andrew Roy were among the journalists who signed it.

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