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Al Jazeera English boss on jailed journalists: Woe betide those who cover all sides of story

Al Anstey

Al Anstey

The global managing director of news channel Al Jazeera English Al Anstey says that all of those involved in the campaign to free three journalists in prison in Egypt “live in hope” for their release.

Australian journalist Peter Greste along with his colleagues Canadian-Egyptian former CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local producer Baher Mohamed were sentenced by an Egyptian court in June to more than seven years for ”defaming” the country.

“We live in hope,” Anstey told Mumbrella’s Australian site ahead of events to raise awareness of the #freeajstaff campaign in Sydney over the next two days. “Everyone who has been actively involved in this campaign lives in hope that there is only one right outcome and that is that they get out and get out as soon as possible.”

Anstey noted that the global campaign calling on the Egyptian government to release the trio had reached more than 100 million people through social media.

“The campaign has now been taken on by people around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have been actively involved in the campaign to free our staff in Egypt,” said Anstey.

“Over 150,000 people have been active on Twitter and they have been actively tweeting and calling for the release, 112m have been reached by that call and there have been two billion impressions, which is not a nebulous figure, that means there have been more than two billion opportunities for people to come across the #freeajstaff hashtag.

“Those are real people calling for their release. Not a shred of evidence has been presented, the evidence has been coverage which has nothing to do with Al Jazeera, family photos, none of it was evidence against our guys.”

Ahead of an appeal date on January 1, Anstey noted that the #freeajstaff campaign was getting louder in an attempt to raise pressure on Egyptian authorities.

“That campaign is getting louder,” he said. “This isn’t about anything between Egypt and Al-Jazeera, this is a message to journalists and editors; woe betide you if you cover all sides of the story.”

“When the guys were arrested so much of the Egyptian media were airing one side of the story. It has been really what the consequences would be if they didn’t. That is the challenge for all journalists in Egypt.

“I don’t think this is about Al Jazeera per se, I don’t think it is about Qatar (which funds Al Jazeera). I think this is about a message being sent out to journalists.”

Anstey today met with the parents of Peter Greste and will be attending events over the next two days in Sydney, in an attempt to further raise publicity for the campaign, as the three come up to nearly a year in prison.

“The campaign is important because of the innocence of the guys and the outrage of locking innocent people up who did nothing but journalism for such an outrageous amount of time.”

Nic Christensen 

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