Long shadow over press freedom

A fortnight before three journalists are to receive an award for their work for press freedom two of them have been jailed.

Imprisoned are al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. Their outraged colleague, Australian Peter Greste, is home after being deported but was also given a three-year sentence. Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian citizen who worked as a producer for al-Jazeera English, was given an additional six months jail.

All have spent more than 400 days in prison. The decision after a 20-month legal battle brought widespread condemnation from governments, political leaders and rights groups. It brought dismay to Liberty Victoria, which recently announced its annual Voltaire free speech award is to go to the three “brothers”, as Greste calls them.

The award is to be presented in Melbourne on Saturday, September 12.

Liberty Victoria president George Georgiou SC said the presentation now took on a greater symbolism. We have heard from the journalists that they were boosted by the award and we hope it serves to help lift their spirits in this tough time.

“We are appalled at this decision. We agree with Peter Greste that no evidence of a crime was produced. It is frightening that these journalists could be convicted as terrorists.

“This conviction severely restricts Greste’s ability to work internationally and casts a long shadow over press freedom.”