Egypt frequently labels non-government sanctioned media and critical news reports as “false news”.
Ahmed Taha, an Al Jazeera Media Network presenter, has slammed an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence him to 15 years in prison in his absence as “lacking logic.”
The ruling is “shameful” for those who issued it, and doesn’t reflect on him and his colleagues, he said.
“This sentence is not against me; it’s against the Al Jazeera Network, against press freedom and journalists in Egypt,” Taha said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Taha was sentenced to 15 years in prison by an Egyptian court for “spreading false news” during an interview with Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a leading opposition figure and former presidential candidate in 2018.
Non-government sanctioned media and critical news reports are frequently described as ‘false news’ in Egypt.
On Sunday, Abul Fetouh, who later became the leader of the ‘Strong Egypt’ party after leaving the Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to 15 years in prison alongside the Brotherhood’s acting leader Mahmoud Ezzat and others.
The two leaders were charged with ‘disseminating false news’ and ‘incitement against state institutions,’ and were sentenced to prison.
Al Jazeera had also condemned the ‘irrational verdict,’ which it described as a ‘attempt to criminalise the profession of journalism.’
“The Network asserts that the Cairo Criminal Court’s decision represents yet another disgrace for the legal and judiciary system in Egypt and that the decision has no legal foundation,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
Al Jazeera also reiterated its demand for the release of four of its journalists who are currently detained in Egypt.
“Al Jazeera Media Network also reiterates its demand for the release of the four Al Jazeera Mubasher journalists, who are currently detained in Egypt without any charges (Hisham Abdel Aziz, Bahaa El-Din Ibrahim, Ahmed Al-Najdi and Rabie Al-Sheikh),” it said.
“It calls on all international press freedom organisations to condemn their arbitrary detention and demands their immediate release.”
The ruling against Taha is part of an ongoing campaign waged by Egyptian authorities against Al Jazeera and its journalists, according to the network’s statement.
Taha stood firm in his commitment to his job, saying he would interview Aboul Fotouh again if asked as part of his duties. This week, Aboul Fotouh was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of plotting against the state.
Taha’s sentencing comes months after Egypt’s National Strategy on Human Rights, a plan to address human rights violations in the country, was released.
Rights groups have accused Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s government of imprisoning tens of thousands of dissidents and outlawing virtually all forms of political opposition since he took power in a 2013 military coup. Cairo has denied the existence of political detainees.
Taha expressed his amusement at the ruling against him on Tuesday. “How would you stand in front of the world and say: ‘I sentenced a TV presenter to 15 years because he hosted a public figure. How are they going to justify this?’”