Statement by the Press Secretary on the Conviction of Journalists in Egypt
The United States strongly condemns the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 other defendants today in Egypt. The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the Government of Egypt’s narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt. As we have said many times before, democracy is about more than elections. True democracy requires thriving democratic institutions, including a vibrant free press that is empowered to hold the government accountable to the people.
Perhaps most disturbing is that this verdict comes as part of a succession of prosecutions and verdicts that are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and democratic governance. These include the prosecution of peaceful protesters and critics of the government, and a series of summary death sentences in trials that fail to achieve even a semblance of due process.
It should be emphasized that the victims in these cases are not just the defendants and journalism more broadly, but the Egyptian people, who have courageously asserted their demands for the fundamental freedoms to which all are entitled. We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences so they can be released immediately, and grant clemency for all politically motivated sentences – starting with the other defendants in this trial. We strongly urge President al-Sisi, in the spirit of his pledge to review all human rights legislation, to provide the protections for free expression and assembly as well as the fair trial safeguards that are required by Egypt’s international obligations. The United States will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they seek to realize the rights for which they have long struggled.