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Journalists’ jail sentences ‘undermine’ Egypt: Britain

August 29, 2015

The jail terms handed down Saturday to three Al-Jazeera reporters “undermine confidence” in Egypt’s progress towards long-term stability, Britain said.

“I am deeply concerned by the sentences handed down today against journalists in Egypt,” north Africa minister Tobias Ellwood said in a statement.

“These sentences will undermine confidence in Egypt’s progress towards strong, long-term stability based on implementing the rights granted by the Egyptian constitution.

“We have repeatedly raised this case and the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt with ministers and senior officials. We note that the case can be appealed, and will monitor future developments closely.”

Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed and Australian journalist Peter Greste were sentenced to three years in prison.

Several co-defendants, accused of working with Al-Jazeera, received similar sentences.

“It is vital that the Egyptian authorities take urgent action to resolve the position of the two British nationals in this case,” Ellwood added.

The Netherlands also raised concerns about Saturday’s sentences.

“Like other countries, the Netherlands calls on the Egyptian authorities to free the journalists,” Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement.

The minister added that it was “also important that a solution is found for the journalists who have been convicted in absentia”.

Press freedom is “essential” for society, Koenders said.

“A democracy can only function if power is checked, and journalists have an important part to play in that role.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.