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Al Jazeera condemns video of its staff’s arrest - Daily News Egypt

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Al Jazeera condemns video of its staff’s arrest

Video of arrests released by Egyptian media can be considered defamation, say Press Syndicate lawyer

A picture taken on on January 30, 2011 shows an employee of Al-Jazeera talking on the phone at the pan-Arab television channel's bureau in Cairo. Prosecutors in Cairo on January 29, 2014 said they were charging 20 Al-Jazeera journalists for portraying Egypt in a state of civil war, a day after an Al Qaeda-inspired group claimed the assassination of a police general.  (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED)
A picture taken on January 30, 2011 shows an employee of Al-Jazeera talking on the phone at the pan-Arab television channel’s bureau in Cairo.

Al Jazeera condemned in a statement on Monday the release of a video showing the arrest of their journalists from the Marriott Hotel in Cairo in December.

The statement described the “dramatisation” of the footage as an attempt to demonise its journalists.

“If this video was deliberately leaked, it violates basic standards of justice. If it came out by mistake, the professionalism of the prosecution process is called into question,” said Salah Negm, news director for Al Jazeera English.

Negm added: “The video ridiculously sets images of our crew’s laptops, cameras and mobile phones against dramatic music. People who look beyond the propaganda, though, will see the video shows what we have been saying all along – that our crew were journalists doing their job.”

Negm denied that his team was operating secretly in Cairo, as the team had openly filed several packages and live reports prior to their arrest. “Not having full paperwork from the authorities in no way justifies their ongoing incarceration and treatment. They should be released forthwith,” he said.

Privately funded satellite channel Al-Tahrir aired a video on Sunday night for the interrogation of senior Al-Jazera staff arrested on 29 December in the case dubbed by the prosecution as the “Marriot Cell”.

The video showed footage of the arrest and initial questioning of Al Jazeera bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and English correspondent Peter Greste. The video showed close-ups of the equipment used by the team in Cairo, including cameras, laptops, microphones, gas masks and hard drives with the soundtrack of the movie Thor playing in the background.

In the video, the interrogators claimed that they had “a warrant”. The video then showed Fahmy being asked by interrogation to count a stack of bills, responding to queries on who he receives his salary from as well as who had appeared in his last interview and to reveal the contact information of the rest of the Al Jazeera staff.

Press Syndicate Lawyer Sayed Abu Zeid said the conduct of the media during the arrests was illegal and can be considered “defamation”. Abu Zeid said: “The journalists can issue a complaint to the syndicate and the legal team will file a complaint to the prosecutor general against the Ministry of Interior.” With regards to being interrogated without a lawyer, Abu Zeid said that this can lead to an appeal for the illegitimacy of the interrogation.

The media office of the Ministry of Interior said that only high profile arrests are recorded on video by a security apparatus, but in this case, there had been “coordination” between the Ministry of Interior and Al-Tahrir channel.

In Nairobi, Kenya, the committee to protect journalists within the Foreign Correspondent Association of East Africa said in a statement it is organising on Tuesday a peaceful protest march and sit-in at the Egyptian Embassy, calling for the release of Al Jazeera East Africa correspondent, Peter Greste, and his colleagues. The protest will be joined by civil society groups and friends of Greste in Kenya, where he began his career as a foreign correspondent with BBC at Mombasa 10 years ago.

Twenty Al Jazeera employees have been held in custody after the 3 July military backed ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests on 30 June. The main office of the Qatari-based news channel was broken into by security forces in August 2013.

In January, the prosecutor general ordered that the suspects in the “Marriott Cell” case would be referred to criminal court for “broadcasting false news” and “aiding a terrorist group”, among other charges.

Additional reporting by Aaron T. Rose

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