National Press Club President Urges Egypt to Free Jailed Journalists

Jan 15, 2015, 17:13 ET from National Press Club

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National Press Club President Myron Belkind, on his last day in office as the Club's 107th president, appealed Thursday to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to free three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt since December 2013.

"President El-Sisi, I appeal to you to free these three journalists, who insist they were only carrying out their professional responsibilities as journalists when they were imprisoned on charges of supporting terrorism," Belkind said.

Egypt's Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of the three journalists on Jan. 1, 2015, but they have not been granted bail. Following their convictions on June 23, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison, and Egyptian Baher Mohammed received a 10-year sentence.

"President El-Sisi, I noted that in an interview with France 24 on Nov. 20, 2014, you were quoted as saying that a presidential pardon is 'being examined' for the three journalists. But we have not heard of anything further from you.

"You also were quoted on July 6, 2014, in comments to editors of Egyptian media outlets, as acknowledging for the first time that the heavy sentences had a 'very negative' impact on your country's reputation and that you wished they were never put on trial.

"I urge you to take whatever appropriate action in your powers to free these three journalists promptly," Belkind said.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Founded in 1908, it is located in Washington, D.C. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the National Press Club speaks out on behalf of press freedom and transparency worldwide.

Contact: John Donnelly, 202-746-6020 or jdonnelly@cq.com for the National Press Club

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SOURCE National Press Club