Egypt’s Al-Tahrir TV aired footage of the three Al-Jazeera journalists who were arrested in December and, as RePRESSed blogged earlier, charged with “belonging to a terrorist group and broadcasting false news that harms national security.”
The 22-minute report (see above YouTube video), aired Sunday night, opens with an Al-Tahrir TV anchor introducing video of what he terms the “Marriott Cell.” The segment is dubbed with a soundtrack lifted straight from a Hollywood adventure film. It shows the inside of the hotel room where the journalists had set up a makeshift studio that included studio lights, computers, cameras and other equipment used by the Al Jazeera journalists in reporting for the Qatar-based network.
The segment also shows Al-Jazeera acting Cairo bureau chief, Mohammed Fahmy, and Australian reporter Peter Grest, being interrogated by state security about the identities of their cameramen, their work methods and how they were funded.
On January 16, state prosecutors released a statement accusing the Al-Jazeera English reporters with “possessing unlicensed broadcast equipment used to damage Egypt’s national security, publishing false news to disrupt national peace and possessing false images aimed at tarnishing the country’s reputation and weakening its financial trust.”
In a related development Sunday, an Egyptian court acquitted Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Badr, who was arrested with others in July following clashes that took place in Cairo just after the former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Sixty-one others were also acquitted.
“This attempt to criminalize legitimate journalistic work is what distorts Egypt’s image abroad. The government’s lack of tolerance shows that it is unable to handle criticism,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “We call on authorities to drop these outrageous charges and release all journalists from jail immediately.”
Today, journalists have launched a global Twitter campaign calling for Egypt to end its crackdown on journalists, tweeting under the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.