A high-level delegation of the Nigerian National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) met yesterday with the Egyptian ambassador to Nigeria, Ashraf Salama, to protest the continued detention of Al Jazeera journalists in his country.
Kabiru Yusuf, chairman of the national committee and a member of the IPI executive board, led the delegation that delivered a letter to the ambassador calling for the prompt release of the journalists and an end to the media siege in Egypt. Some of the journalists facing trial in Egypt have been in detention for as long as 10 months.
Responding to the IPI delegation, Ambassador Salama accused the detained journalists of infringing on Egyptian laws but acknowledged the plea of the delegation for their release.
Gathering outside the embassy in Abuja, the local IPI delegation unveiled a banner denouncing the journalists’ detention and calling for their immediate release.
Besides Yusuf, who is chairman and CEO of Media Trust Limited, the delegation included Raheem Adedoyin, secretary of the IPI national committee and special advisor for communication strategy for the governor or Kwara state; Mallam Haruna Mohammed, managing director and editor-in-chief of Citizen Communication Limited; Folu Olamiti, a media consultant; Mallam Garba Shehu, director, People’s Media Limited; Mannir Dan Ali, editor-in-chief of the Daily Trust newspaper; and Mallam Shehu Mustapha, CEO and editor-in-chief of Politico magazine.
Yusuf recently visited Cairo, together with five other IPI representatives, on a fact-finding mission to examine attacks against journalists as well as the detention of media workers on charges that include terrorism.
A trial for three Al Jazeera journalists – Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed – is to resume on March 24. They were arrested in a Cairo hotel on Dec. 29, 2013 and were indicted on charges that include aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and reporting “false news”.
Some 17 other journalists, including others working for the Al Jazeera network, are awaiting trial on related charges. [Read IPI’s report, ‘Journalists under siege’.]
The full content of the IPI protest letter follows:
International Press Institute (IPI)
Nigeria National Committee
c/o Media Trust Limited
March 19, 2014
Arab Republic of Egypt
CALL FOR RELEASE OF AL JAZEERA JOURNALISTS IN EGYPT
We join our colleagues and other well-meaning people from all over the world in calling for the release of the Al Jazeera journalists who have been detained by the Egyptian authorities for the past 10 months.
We are pained to observe that every time there is a major crisis, the first victims are the ones who report the events. The role of the journalist is to report all sides of the story, irrespective of the event or the place they are reporting from. The detention and imprisonment of journalists are against the universal principles of the freedom of speech and against basic international human rights norms.
Instead of harassment and detention, journalists need to be protected in all circumstances.
The Nigerian chapter of the IPI appeals to the Egyptian authorities to discontinue their trial and order their immediate release. As observed by other colleagues elsewhere, “We strongly believe that upholding rights of journalists and permitting the free flow of information is vital to bringing about greater understanding and serves the best interests of all Egyptians and the world”.
We are encouraged by the words of the Interim President, Adly Mansour, who was quoted in a reply to the parents of one of the journalists [Peter Greste] yesterday as saying, “Notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary and that his full rights are guaranteed under the law, I would like to assure you in my capacity as President of Egypt, that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law and that guarantees the reunion of the family in the near future.”
The recent IPI ‘Journalists under siege’ report details the press assault in Egypt which could be an invitation to copy-cat governments to descend on the media in their countries too.
In the interest of free media and democracy, we urge the Egyptian authorities to promptly release all the journalists in their custody. We believe that Egypt cannot gain anything in the eye of right-thinking people of the world by the continued detention of media workers.
Free the captives.
IPI Nigeria National Committee