BBC journalists hold minute's silence for the Al Jazeera three: 'There but for the grace of God go all of us' - Press Gazette

BBC journalists hold minute's silence for the Al Jazeera three: 'There but for the grace of God go all of us'

Hundreds of staff from the BBC and other news organisations stood in silence for a one minute protest outside New Broadcasting House in London exactly 24 hours after three journalists were jailed in Egypt on charges relating to terrorism.

Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were each yesterday sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges stemming from an interview with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The verdicts were met with widespread condemnation, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying he was "appalled".

The Foreign Office political director Simon Gass met the Egyptian Ambassador to London, Ashraf El Kholy, yesterday to convey the UK Government's displeasure about the sentences.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Gass told the ambassador, who had been summoned by Foreign Secretary William Hague, that the Government is "deeply concerned by the verdicts and the procedural shortcomings seen during the trial".

He added: "There is a provision for freedom of expression in the Egyptian constitution and we asked that the sentences be reviewed in light of that provision."

BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney, who has worked in Afghanistan and most recently undercover in North Korea, said the verdicts yesterday were "wrong, wrong, wrong".

"The Egyptian government has taken a step back into the middle ages," he told the Press Association.

"They've locked up three people whose only crime was doing their job. Journalism is not a crime."

While he said he does not think the protest '"will really achieve much", he said it was an opportunity for journalists to take a stand.

He appealed to members of the public to support the cause. 

"I would invite people not to go on holiday to Egypt, there are lots of other sunny places they could go to," he said.

"And I would invite the Egyptian government to watch some of Peter Greste's work.

"Then they will see this is not a man who is supportive of extremist Islam."

Staff from the BBC were joined by representatives from Al Jazeera and Sky among others.

Radio 4 presenter Julian Worricker said: "It is really important because they represent all journalists because they were just doing their jobs and they end up jailed for seven years.

"There but for the grace of God go all of us."

Asked if he thought there would be more protests, Worricker said: "I'd be disappointed if (protests) didn't continue because there is a strong sense of injustice."



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