The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, is concerned over the sentencing to seven years imprisonment of three Al-Jazeera journalists by the Egyptian Judiciary authorities.
The three journalists: Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were arrested during demonstrations following the arrest of former President Mohammed Morsi. They were accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.
The Special Rapporteur expresses her concern over the circumstances surrounding the arrest and imprisonment of the journalists, and in this regard, would like to remind the Government of Egypt of its international obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (UN Declaration), the Kigali Declaration, the Grand Bay Declaration and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (the Declaration). In particular, she draws the Government’s attention to Principles II (1) and (2) of the Declaration which provides that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression” and that “any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary in a democratic society”.
The Special Rapporteur further draws the Government’s attention to Principle XI (1) of the Declaration which provides that “…intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression…undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public;” and Principle XI (2) which puts an obligation on State Parties “to take effective measures to prevent such attacks and, when they do occur, to investigate them, to punish perpetrators and to ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.”
The Special Rapporteur reiterates that arrest and imprisonment of demonstrators, is a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed by the African Charter, the Declaration, the UN Declaration in its Articles 5(a) and 6(a), and other regional and international human rights instruments. Restriction of these rights according to international legal standards must be prescribed by law enacted in the interest of national security, public safety or order, protection of public health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
On behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and on her own behalf, the Special Rapporteur urges the Government of Egypt, to order the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists, and withdraw all charges against them.
The Special Rapporteur further urges the Government of Egypt to take necessary measures to stop all acts of intimidation carried out against journalists working in Egypt; respect and guarantee their right to freedom of opinion and expression; their right to freedom of assembly; ensure their physical integrity; and ensure they conduct their activities in a safe and conducive environment.
Done in Banjul, 25 June 2014