Egyptian authorities have announced that twenty Al-Jazeera journalists, including four foreigners, will stand trial on charges of joining or aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security. The move has stoked fears of a crackdown on the freedom of the press.
The journalists are alleged to have set up a “media center” for the Muslim Brotherhood and to have “manipulated pictures” to give the world the impression that “there is a civil war that threatens to bring down the state.”
Authorities have long viewed Al-Jazeera as biased toward the Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organization by the government last month, but the Qatar-based network denies the allegations.
Experts told Associated Press that journalists had previously been detained in Egypt, but never tried in court.
Amnesty International urged Cairo to immediately drop all charges, and U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that, “the government’s targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.”
The trial date has not yet been set, and the full list of charges and defendants’ names not yet issued, but they are known to include the Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English, Mohammed Fahmy, the award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.