Ramallah-based Al Jazeera journalists rally for detained colleagues in Egypt

By Qais Abu Samra

RAMALLAH – Ramallah-based journalists from the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news channel on Thursday staged a protest in solidarity with four colleagues facing trial in Egypt.

Organized under the slogan "Being a journalist isn't a crime," the staff of the network's Ramallah bureau called for the release of colleagues detained by Egyptian authorities.

Four journalists from Al Jazeera's English-language news service face charges of "obstructing Egypt's national security" by producing "fabricated news stories and footage" with the intent of tarnishing the country's image.

Mohamed Fadel Fahmi, an Egyptian-Canadian journalist and Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief, is also accused – along with 15 other Egyptians – of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails.

Al Jazeera's offices in 30 other Arab and foreign countries organized similar solidarity rallies on Thursday to press for their detained colleagues' release.

The network also launched an online social-media campaign with the hashtag: #FreeAJStaff.

"Journalism and journalists have become an issue of life or death, particularly in the Arab world," Walid al-Omari, Al Jazeera's Ramallah bureau chief, said at Thursday's rally.

"Detaining journalists without charge has become a troubling trend," he added.

Egypt's military-backed administration accuses Al Jazeera of bias in favor of Morsi – an allegation the channel denies – amid ongoing tension between Cairo and Doha over the latter's criticisms of Morsi's July 3 ouster by the army.

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