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Jun 26, 2014

The Cairo 3: Press freedom at risk

Three weeks ago, myself and a colleague were in Doha with our client at Al Jazeera English , and we all had high expectations that the journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed would soon be released from their Cairo prison cell because the evidence against them seemed so flimsy and capricious.

On Monday those hopes were dashed when Australian Greste and Canadian Fahmy were sentenced to seven years gaol, with Egyptian colleague Mohamed picking up an extra three years for having in his possession a spent bullet casing– a trifling souvenir that is apparently evidence of his further guilt.

During our short stint in Doha we met with senior executives across the network, including Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey, a journalist with impeccable credentials and track record across the globe.

Anstey and the entire organisation have been deeply concerned about his team ever since their arrest 178 days ago.  All for what Anstey tasks his journalists to do every single day, which is to be “bold, challenging and fearless” and giving a “voice to the voiceless.”

Sister network Al Jazeera Arabic director of news Ibrahim Helal gave us insights into the social, legal and political dynamics within Egypt that have caused not just the three journalists to be imprisoned, but also many others that face far worse punishment under the new regime.

Both networks strive to uncover those stories that people want to remain hidden.  Greste and his colleagues have been victimised for doing their job in Egypt in what Anstey has characterised as a political show trial that “defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”

As a PR agency we are often tasked to help drive causes and issues that drive commercial imperatives for our clients.  However, during the past 179 days, we’ve had a higher calling.

Since the journalists’ arrest we have been supporting the far more important social principle of press freedom in Australia and across the world, because that is an essential ingredient of strong democracies and political accountability.

We’d urge everyone to support Al Jazeera in its efforts to uphold press freedom and seek the immediate release of the Cairo three.

— Emilio Robles, Howorth Communications / Ogilvy Public Relations

WEB_Ogilvy PR in solidarity_#FreeAJStaff