The United Nations Correspondents Association hosted Wednesday an emergency meeting in defense of three jailed Al-Jazeera journalists, attended by representatives from 19 UN missions, UN correspondents and UN staff.
In a letter addressed to Ambassador Mootaz Khalil, Pamela Falk, head of the UN Correspondents Association, called the meeting in order to “discuss the imprisonment of journalists, and what can be done to protect press freedom.”
“The UN Correspondents Association demands that Egypt live up to its international commitments. Freedom of expression and the right to report news is enshrined in international humanitarian law, human rights agreements and in national laws around the world,” the letter read.
At the meeting, Egypt’s deputy UN Ambassador Osama Mahmoud defended the Egyptian judiciary. Reuters quoted Mahmoud as saying: “The Egyptian judicial system is very well-known for providing full guarantees for the defendant.”
“I have confidence that the due procedures will be followed and justice will be done in such cases and in all other cases,” he continued. “We have 1,200 foreign correspondents in Egypt working, none of them were harassed or annoyed … We highly respect the role played by journalists.”
The meeting was also attended by Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Kate O’Brian, President of Al-Jazeera America.
CPJ was very vocal about the recent Al-Jazeera trial verdict, calling the ruling “shocking” and “an extremely disturbing sign for the future of the Egyptian press.”
“Authorities must release the journalists immediately and overturn the verdict on appeal,” the group demanded.
At least 14 other journalists are currently detained in Egypt, which CPJ ranked as the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013.