LONDON: Hundreds of journalists from the BBC and other news organizations held a silent protest in London on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in support of Al-Jazeera reporters jailed by an Egyptian court.
The journalists, many with black tape over their mouths, gathered outside the BBC’s broadcasting headquarters to express their support for their former colleague, the award-winning Peter Greste from Australia, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed, who were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail.
In a case that has attracted international condemnation, they were convicted on Monday of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement and “spreading false news.”
James Harding, the head of BBC News, said the verdict was “unjust” and the case against the Al-Jazeera team was “unfounded.”
“The Egyptian authorities are not just robbing three innocent men of their freedom, they are intimidating journalists,” he said.
BBC investigative reporter John Sweeney, who has worked in Afghanistan and most recently undercover in North Korea, said the verdicts on Monday were “wrong, wrong, wrong.”
“The Egyptian government has taken a step back into the middle ages,” he said.
“They’ve locked up three people whose only crime was doing their job,” he added.
The protesters have sent a letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calling on him to intervene.
But the president said on Tuesday that the government would not interfere in the case.
Barnaby Phillips, an Al-Jazeera colleague of Greste’s, said Greste was a “tough customer” who was dealing well with his ordeal.
“He knows about the solidarity that is coming from elsewhere,” he added.
Phillips said his colleagues would keep up their pressure on the Egyptian authorities and hoped that external pressure would force them to free the journalists.
“We won’t give up, we think that any government is not impervious to international condemnation, not just from journalists but diplomatic condemnation as well,” he said.