Global calls for release of Jazeera staff

April 09, 2014 - 4:57:17 am

DOHA: Journalists from across the world yesterday marked the 100th day of imprisonment of Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt, with more than 900 million people having joined a Twitter campaign to secure their release.

At the historic Paley Center in New York City, Al Jazeera English’s Executive Producer for Newsgathering in the Americas, Owen Watson, opened a press conference with a strong call for the immediate release of Al Jazeera journalists.

Colleagues from the Associated Press, ABC News, The New York Times, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and sister-channel Al Jazeera Arabic joined him in solidarity. 

Jon Williams, Foreign Editor of ABC News, stated, “This is not Al Jazeera’s fight. This is our fight as journalists.”

Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera Arabic’s Washington DC Bureau Chief, drew attention to his colleague Abdullah Al Shami, who has been detained since last August with no charges pressed. Al Shami was on the 78th day of a hunger strike yesterday. 

The press conference concluded with an announcement of the International Documentary Association’s letter of support. 

In London, Heather Allan, Al Jazeera English Head of Newsgathering, participated in the BBC’s Safety of Journalists Symposium, hosted by BBC Global News and the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, in cooperation with the BBC College of Journalism. 

Participants endorsed a statement that called for increased safety and protection of journalists, but also called for the release of the Al Jazeera staff.

“Today also marks 100 days since the arrest and detention in Egypt of three respected and highly professional Al Jazeera journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. No credible evidence has been produced to justify their imprisonment and prosecution. A number of other journalists have also been held in Egypt for extended periods without adequate access to justice. We call for the release of all those individuals and the freeing of more than 200 other journalists around the world who are now held behind bars only because they were doing their jobs,” it said.

“Journalism is not a crime; it is essential for a free and open society,” read the statement.

Journalists from the BBC also took part in the social media #FreeAJStaff campaign, posting photos and messages of support for all four Al Jazeera staff.

Al Anstey, Managing Director, Al Jazeera English, welcomed the support: “Over 40,000 people have been actively involved in the campaign, events have been held in over 30 countries and in every continent, there have been over 900 million impressions of the FreeAJStaff hashtag, and there have been repeated calls for an end to the detention of our journalists from governments as well as media organisations from all corners of the globe,” said Anstey.

At Columbia School of Journalism, a Freedom of Press Symposium was held in partnership with Dart Center, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and Information Project and Columbia Global Centres  Middle East. It highlighted the imprisonment of Al Jazeera journalists while reflecting on the changing geo-political landscape in the Middle East as well as press freedom.

Doha Centre for Media Freedom also joined the #FreeAJStaff campaign in pointing out that journalism is not a crime. “Doha Centre for Media Freedom believes that one day in prison for practising journalism is one day too many; one hundred days in prison is a serious aberration which must be resolved,” the centre said in a statement. THE PENINSULA

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