Affirming the right of independent investigative reporting and freedom of the press, the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, America’s largest Muslim grassroots organization, issued a statement today that condemned the ruling of an Egyptian court against Howaida Tawa, a producer for the Al Jazeera network.
Tawa was sentenced by the court to a six month prison term, or a fine of $1,760, for her part in producing a report on torture committed by Egyptian police officers. The producer, who is currently in Qatar, was charged by Egyptian officials with damaging the country s supreme interests and possessing fabricated video material that would damage Egypt s reputation, with intent to broadcast it. The sentence was rendered in absentia. Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of the MAS Freedom Foundation, stated that The Muslim American Society views this ruling by the Egyptian court as a direct assault on democracy and freedom of the press, and we urge all persons and institutions that cherish human rights to protest that verdict. This attack on the right of an independent media representative further indicates that the Egyptian government is desperately trying to keep the truth of its foul acts from the light of international scrutiny, he added. The MAS Freedom Foundation has initiated a major international campaign supporting human and democratic rights for the Egyptian people. MAS officials have already met with both Egyptian embassy officials and US State Department officials to voice condemnation of numerous, and systematic, human rights violations committed by Egyptian authorities and police. Ibrahim Ramey, the director of human rights work at the Freedom Foundation, stated that the verdict against Tawa must be vigorously opposed by both the international human rights community and the international press. Freedom of the press must mean, in the final analysis, the unobstructed freedom of the international community to learn about the real, and tragic, human rights situation in Egypt, he said. A spokesperson for the Al Jazeera office in Cairo indicated that Ms. Tawa plans to appeal the verdict and the sentence.