The verdict was unjustifiable as there was a
complete lack of evidence to substantiate the cases against Al-Jazeera
journalists, said media reports.
As per The Guardian, three videos provided as
evidence were a package about horse welfare in Egypt by Sky News Arabia,
believed to have been taken from equipment owned by Baher Mohamed, followed
by footage from a press conference in Nairobi about last year's Westgate mall
attacks, and then a BBC Panorama documentary about Somalian bandits made by
Peter Greste in 2011. And, all of them were filmed by networks other than
"On the basis of the evidence that we've seen, we
can't understand the verdict," said Ralph King, the Australian ambassador in
Cairo, to the guardian adding, "We will make our feelings clear to the Egyptian
government and we will continue to provide all possible consular assistance."
Al-Jazeera said in a press release that “There is
no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even
one minute. To have detained them for 177 Days is an outrage. To have
sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”
“Egypt's judiciary has dealt a shocking blow to
the principle of free speech after three journalists for Al-Jazeera English were
sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail on charges of aiding terrorists
and endangering national security,” said Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian who
reported the incident from Cairo.
Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, said,
"The Australian government simply cannot understand it based on the evidence
that was presented in the case."
"We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part
of a broader attempt to muzzle the press freedom that upholds democracies around
the world,” Bishop added.
The judgment and sentences it passed drew
criticism from almost all corners. A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron
said he was “completely appalled” by the verdicts.
Organisations and forums working to uphold the
professional rights and freedom of the journalists have condemned the sentences.
"We are disappointed and outraged at this
judgement. It is an abhorrent abuse of press freedom principles," said Larry
Kilman, Secretary General of the World Association of Newspapers and News
publishers, adding that "These journalists have been jailed for simply doing
their jobs and journalism is not a crime."
"These convictions are shocking, and an extremely
disturbing sign for the future of the Egyptian press," said Sherif Mansour,
CPJ'S Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. "Authorities must
release the journalists immediately and overturn the verdict on appeal."
While it remains unclear what recourse the
defendants are going to take after being served with the sentences, the United
Nations Human Rights wing appealed that Egypt should free three Al Jazeera
journalists who were jailed on Monday for seven years and stop the 'obscene'
practice of holding mass trials of government opponents that end in death
"Egypt's reputation, and especially the reputation
of its judiciary as an independent institution, are at stake," UN human rights
Chief Navi Pillay said in a statement adding, "There is a risk that miscarriage
of justice is becoming the norm in Egypt."
“There is only one sensible outcome now. For the
verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognised by Egypt. We must keep
our voice loud to call for an end to their detention. Alongside us is a
worldwide solidarity, a global call for their release, and a demand for basic
freedoms to be respected. The authorities in Egypt need to take responsibility
for their actions, and be held to account by the global community,” the release
from Al-Jazeera noted.
“We will continue with resolve and determination
until Baher, Peter, and Mohamed are free and safely reunited with their
families,” it said.
However, the issue is not limited to reversal of
the sentences pronounced by the Cairo court or facilitating release of the
journalists jailed in Egypt, but ensuring an atmosphere for the journalists do
their duties in countries of political hostility and instability, places of
conflict and war. It needs strong and immediate intervention by the
international communities including the UN because increasing threat to media
and unhealthy censorship are the indications of lesser-democracy or no
Media and its members have been threatened in the
Middle East since the days of Arab Spring and the situation is not changing to
create a proper atmosphere for journalists even after the change in political
structure and system in several countries. The threat is rather becoming
stronger and wider.
As per a review by World Association of Newspapers
and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Journalists in Venezuela, Brazil and Ukraine
have been killed or wounded while reporting on street protests and clashes
between security forces and protesters.
The ruling class poses bigger threat to media in
Asian countries like Thailand, since the coup organised by Thai military,
Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. As per the world Press Freedom Index 2014,
threat to media is increasing in China and the India as well.
The case of Egypt serves another but a serious
alert to the world leadership to intervene and ensure a conducive atmosphere for
media to operate and work so that democracy can be protected.