Egypt: Call to free Al-Jazeera producer
The International Federation of Journalists has called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately free Al Jazeera news producer Mahmoud Hussein.
The 600,000-strong IFJ has also called on UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to act to “defend human rights and protect press freedom” by supporting calls for Mr Hussein's release.
Hussein was arrested on 23 December while on vacation with his family in Egypt and is being held in an unknown place, facing accusations of “disturbing public security and spreading false news”.
IFJ President Philippe Leruth has now written to Ban Ki Moon and to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi calling on him to intervene and secure Mr Hussein's immediate release.
Following his arrest Mr Hussein and his relatives were denied the right to be visited by diplomats or by lawyers who would defend them, contrary to the universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Philippe Leruth said: “Such general accusations are a criminalisation of journalistic work designed to suppress independent journalism and prevent free reporting.
“If journalists accidentally spread “false news”, their ethical duty commands them to correct them immediately, and if they don't, they not only face their colleagues' disapproval, but they can also face civil complaints. They should never face criminal charges and be detained for this very reason. It is a clear breach of media freedoms”.
In a statement Al-Jazeera said: “Al Jazeera Media Network has read the statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI) regarding the arrest of Mahmoud Hussein and denies the fabricated charges made against him. Moreover, the network is deeply surprised that the MOI of a country as big as Egypt would issue an official statement that contains an alarming number of false facts and allegations.
“Mahmoud Hussein is a news producer in the Al Jazeera Arabic newsroom and not a correspondent supervisor as alleged by the statement. Furthermore, Mahmoud went to Egypt to visit his family during his vacation with full confidence in himself, his profession and his integrity. In fact, Mahmoud would not have travelled through the airport at Egypt if he was undertaking any illegal activities as alleged by the MOI statement.
“Al Jazeera Media Network reaffirms its commitment to ensuring ethical and professional coverage of news in its pursuit of the truth, which is not directed to the detriment of specific individuals, institutions or countries. As such, Al Jazeera denies all the malicious accusations stated against it in the MOI’s statement. Moreover, Al Jazeera holds the Egyptian authorities responsible for the safety of Mahmoud Hussein and condemns his confinement and his baseless interrogation by the Public Prosecution and demands his immediate release. Al Jazeera also warns the Egyptian authorities against subjecting Mahmoud to torture or extracting any information from him by force. Al Jazeera deems all accusations against Mahmoud, including those which might be added later to the current allegations, to be a result of practices which violate international norms and conventions, and which, unfortunately prevail in Egypt as exposed by human rights organizations”.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries