Following the Egyptian authorities’ arrest on Sunday of four Cairo-based Al-Jazeera English journalists, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in UK (AOHR UK), a non-governmental organisation that promotes human rights in general and the rights of Arab citizens in particular, is urging the UN secretary general to intervene in Egypt and secure the release of the Al-Jazeera team members as well as all journalists detained since the 3rd July 2013 military coup in Egypt.
According to a statement issued by AOHR UK on Wednesday, “Egyptian security forces arrested four members of the Cairo-based Al-Jazeera English team on the evening of the 29th December 2013.” The journalists are: Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, producer Mohammed Baher and cameraman Mohammed Fawzy. All four had their equipment confiscated, and so far only Fawzy has been released.
These arrests are in line with what the rights group calls an “unprecedented fierce media campaign vilifying” any media outlet seeking to report truthfully about the state’s brutal crackdown against opponents of the military coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. Since his removal last summer, thousands of Egyptians have been killed, injured or detained, while those media outlets trying to honestly report the military regime’s rights abuses have been vilified, harassed, censored and detained.
Egyptian authorities have particularly targeted Al-Jazeera Network. According to AOHR UK: “Al-Jazeera offices in Egypt have been targeted by security authorities since the 3rd July 2013 coup with many of the station’s staff being detained and their equipment confiscated. Most were later released without being charged. The government has not issued any decree banning the network from operating in Egypt, yet it arrested Al-Jazeera Arabic team members Abdullah Al-Shami and Mohammed Bader after the brutal break-up of the Rabaa, Al-Nahda and Ramses protests and absurdly charged them with being in possession of a camera, disrupting the peace and being a threat to national security!”
The organisation added that: “These measures clearly reflect the desire of the Egyptian regime to commit more crimes and violations without the risk of media coverage. Journalists seeking to uncover the truth about atrocities in Egypt are harassed and detained. On the other hand, channels and journalists supportive of the coup are afforded police protection and transported on-board military helicopters to cover the events in Egypt.”
Nevertheless, the AOHR UK asserted that this “iron fist approach of targeting journalists has failed in hiding the true face of the events in Egypt”.
Citing Article 19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the rights group noted that all people have the right to freedom of opinion and expression through any media regardless of frontiers. Furthermore, the 1978 UNESCO declaration on the role of the media in international relations upholds that: “The exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and information, recognised as an integral part of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a vital factor in the strengthening of peace and international understanding.”
As such, AOHR UK stated that the arrest of the “journalists without charging them with any crime is a serious violation of all international laws and conventions on the freedom of obtaining and disseminating information”. The rights group is urging “the UN secretary general to intervene to secure the release of Al-Jazeera team members and all other journalists who have been arrested since the 3rd of July 2013.”