The world’s leading professional organization for journalists- the National Press Club (NPC)- has expressed its deep concern over the Egyptian court verdict to uphold death penalties for three journalists.
Egypt’s court had confirmed Egypt’s Grand Mufti had upheld the May 7 verdicts for the three journalists for allegedly passing state secrets to Qatar.
The Journalists are: Ibrahim Helal, the former director of news at Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, was sentenced to death as well as Alaa Sablan, the former correspondent after, being accused of leaking national security documents to Qatar.
The other defendant who received a death sentence is Asmaa Alkhatib, a journalist at Rassd News Network. The three journalists are not in Egypt, and they were tried in absentia. Authorities could demand their extradition to execute them back in Egypt.
Thomas Burr, the NPC President criticized the verdict saying , “It shows the rest of the world that the authorities continue to have a complete disregard for the freedom of the press, and are abusing the law to censor a free and independent news media.” Burr added, “Journalism is not a crime.”
He also called the Egyptian government to reconsider the verdict as several human rights organizations have repeatedly stated, that this was a shame trial, and the verdict will have a further chilling effect on the press in Egypt.
In fact, the Egyptians had many hopes of freedom and democracy after January Revolution in 2011 that toppled the rule of Hosni Mubarak. But the Egyptians’ hopes of freedom have faded with the military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013. Journalists have come under increasing attacks from political forces as well as the government. Moreover, the Egyptian security forces stormed the Press Syndicate building for the first time in history and arrested two journalists who were organizing a sit-in in the building against their colleagues’ arrests.
The death penalty against the journalists is the latest evidence of the deteriorating situation in Egypt. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egypt is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.
The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.The NPC works through its Press Freedom Committee. It aims to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad.