Al Jazeera calls for release of journalists detained in Egypt

Al Jazeera Media Network hosts second global day of action as journalists spend 100th day in jail

NEW YORK — Al Jazeera Media Network held a second global day of action Monday, demanding the release of its journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have been held in jail in Egypt for 100 days.

A fourth Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, has been held in Egypt for more than six months and has been on hunger strike since January 23. His detention was extended for an additional 45 days on March 13.

In New York, Al Jazeera held a press conference at the Paley Center for Media, calling on Egyptian authorities to immediately release its journalists. The Columbia Journalism School is also holding an event Monday to show support for the Al Jazeera journalists.

"Are journalists under attack? Absolutely," said D. Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Mansour was one of six panelists at the press conference.

Mansour noted that in Egypt alone, six journalists have been killed since July 2013 – equaling the total amount killed between 1992 and 2011 under former president Hosni Mubarak, and more than the two who were killed under the watch of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Mosri.

It’s the vilification of media. We see that happening with pro-government media. And it’s well ingrained in a lot of Egyptians who now act on behalf of the government and are attacking journalists in the streets," Mansour said.  "In many ways giving a sense of immunity to the government to act against journalists locally and internationally, without feeling any accountability. That I think is a big disappointment for a country that has gone through an uprising for freedom."

Other panelists at the press conference included Gary Pruitt, President of the Associated Press, B. Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera Arabic Bureau Chief, C. Susan Chira, Assistant Managing Editor of The New York Times, and E. Jon Williams, Managing Editor International, ABC News.

People around the world have voiced their support for the Al Jazeera journalists through social media, using the hashtag #FreeAJStaff on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram.

Over 40,000 people have been actively involved in the campaign, and events have been held in over 30 countries and in every continent. Amid repeated calls to end the jounalists' detentions, there have been over 800 million social media mentions of #FreeAJStaff.

Other major news organizations have also stood in solidarity with Al Jazeera. On Monday journalists from the BBC gathered for the Journalist Safety Symposium and hosted a protest at the Piazza at New Broadcasting House. Attendees taped their mouths and held signs that read "journalism is not a crime."

The Foreign Correspondents' Association of Southern Africa will also hold a protest outside the Pretoria High Court, with attendees taping their mouths standing in solidarity with Al Jazeera.

"Mohamed, Baher, and Peter have now been behind bars in Egypt for 100 days for simply doing their job, and for carrying out the highest quality journalism," said Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English. "The charges against them are false and baseless, so there is no justification whatsoever in the detention of innocent journalists for such an outrageous amount of time. 

"We continue to call for their immediate release and for the release of our colleague from Al Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah Elshamy, who has been behind bars for 236 days."

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