Al Jazeera sees global support for detained staff

Global Day of Action demonstrates solidarity with detained journalists and aims to pressure Egyptian authorities

Al Jazeera English journalists Baher Mohamed, left, Peter Greste, center, and Mohammed Fahmy, have been held since December.

Al Jazeera was joined Thursday for a Global Day of Action to demand the immediate release of four of its journalists who have been locked up in Egypt's prisons for months.

People in more than 30 cities expressed their solidarity and support, with public events taking place in Sydney, Manila, Islamabad, Doha, Amman, Nairobi, Ankara, Berlin, London, Rio, Montreal, Washington and San Francisco.

Award-winning Peter Greste, bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed were detained on Dec. 29, taken from a hotel, and accused of spreading false news and belonging to a "terrorist group." They first appeared in court on Feb. 21.

The trial was then adjourned to March 5.

Abdullah Al Shamy from the Arabic broadcaster was detained more than six months ago without any charges and has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 23.

In a statement released in advance of Thursday's actions, Al Jazeera said it hoped "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."

In an interview Thursday with Al Jazeera's John Seigenthaler, 60 Minutes Correspondent Bob Simon added his support for the three imprisoned journalists.

Simon was kidnapped and held in Iraq in 1991. He was released after being tortured and imprisoned for 40 days.

Simon described the journalists as being held "hostage" because he said the Egyptian government had not come up with any credible charges against them.

"I think if President Obama called Field Marshal Sisi and said let them out, it would have an influence," Simon said. "Pressure is the only thing that does it. ... But it has to be pressure from on high."

Global concern

Freedom of speech in Egypt has been the focus of mounting global concern since the government adopted a hardline approach towards journalists. The country has been ranked the third deadliest destination for journalists in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

Commenting on the Action day, Mostefa Souag, acting General Director of Al Jazeera Media Network said: "We truly appreciate the solidarity from everybody right around the world. The pressure, support and calls for our colleagues to be released have continued to keep the story in the news.

"The Global Day of Action is about the freedom of the press, it is about objective reporting and to ensure journalists cannot be gagged or silenced.

"We ask everyone to contribute to the Global Day of Action on Thursday 27th February. Journalism is not a crime."

An online #FreeAJstaff campaign has had a quarter of a billion hits on Twitter alone since the February 1.

To build on that, Al Jazeera is using Thunderclap to allow people to pledge a Tweet, Facebook post, or Tumblr post containing the same message that will be published at the same time throughout the world.

Institutions including the White House, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the release of the journalists, and for press freedoms to be upheld.

Al Jazeera

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