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Union condemns death sentence for NUJ member

23 May 2016

The NUJ is calling for the death sentence imposed on an NUJ member by the Egyptian authorities to be immediately overturned or a pardon granted.

Ibrahim Helal, an NUJ member and journalist of 27 years who works for Al Jazeera, was sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court on 7 May, following a two-year legal process for which he was unable to have any legal representation.

The charges of espionage relate to the broadcast of a report on Al Jazeera, when Ibrahim was head of news, that revealed a document demonstrating links with Hamas in the closing weeks of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, with personnel who are now key figures in President Sisi's successor government. The Egyptian government also claimed there was a spying plot to sell state documents to Qatari military intelligence, linking in Ibrahim Helal and two other journalists also sentenced in absentia.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The charges of spying are baseless and ridiculous, this is about a legitimate piece of public interest journalism that went down badly for obvious reasons with the Egyptian government.

"Ibrahim has never been questioned, there is no evidence of a plot or that he was involved, the whole business would be farcical if it wasn’t so sinister and the consequences so dire for him and his family.

"This is about cracking down on journalistic freedoms. The death sentence is intended as a carefully calculated message to journalists the world over that it is not safe to write freely about the Egyptian government. Journalists around the world will not stand by and allow this to happen. The NUJ fully supports Ibrahim’s case, and with the IFJ we will do all we can to get this sentence overturned."

The IFJ, representing 600,000 journalists worldwide, is backing NUJ calls for the immediate dropping of charges against Ibrahim Helal. IFJ president Jim Boumelha raised Ibrahim’s case during the Congress of the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) in Tunis this month and called on the Arab journalists' community to support the case. Read the IFJ press release.

Tags: , Al Jazeera, IFJ, broadcasting, journalists prosecuted, egypt, press freedom