United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has applauded the decision by the Egyptian authorities to release the detained Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, ending his 400-day imprisonment.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban welcomed the move but noted that other journalists were still detained in Egypt,” adding that he hoped their cases would also be resolved shortly.
Mr. Greste and his two colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were arrested in 2013 for carrying out legitimate news reporting activities, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), and were subsequently convicted and sentenced in June 2014 by an Egyptian court. Media reports suggest that Mr. Greste, an Australian national, has already left the country while Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed remain jailed.
“The Secretary-General again underscores the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech and association in Egypt,” the statement continued, reiterating Mr. Ban’s “continued commitment to supporting the Egyptian people’s struggle for stability, democracy, and prosperity.”
“He strongly believes that pluralism is key for achieving long-term stability, including the guarantee that all peaceful voices are heard and represented.”
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding treaty that Egypt ratified in 1982, states that ‘Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.’
Nevertheless, journalists working for other media organizations have reported being attacked by Government supporters after being accused of working for Al Jazeera. A video also emerged last year which appeared to show a police officer threatening a camera crew working for another TV station that, if they did not stop filming, he would tell bystanders they worked for Al Jazeera so that they would be attacked.