Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Al Jazeera Journalists

In Progress Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    August 29, 2015
  • Outcome
    Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Egypt, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Licensing / Media Regulation, Press Freedom

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Cairo Criminal Court held on August 29, 2015, that Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste, were guilty of fabricating news in order to disturb public order, security, and the international reputation of Egypt, and also of aiding a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Baher Mohamed and Mohame Fahmy have been released by Egyptian authorities following a presidential pardon.

Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


On August 29, 2015, three journalist, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste, were sentenced by an Egyptian court to three-years imprisonment. Baher Mohamed had six months added on to his sentence because of charges related to the possession of weapons. Both Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had already spent more than 400 days in detention and the verdict held that these day may be counted towards the three year sentence.

In 2013, these men were working in Egypt as journalists for the Al Jazeera Media Network and covered stories related to the contemporaneous Egyptian political climate. They were arrested in December 2013 and later Peter Greste was deported back to Australia. Both Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy spent over 400 days in detention while the case proceeded, however, both were able to leave on bail in 2015. The Giza Criminal Court delivered a ruling on June 23, 2014, in which all journalists were found guilty because they had allegedly fabricated information and published it. [See pg. 49 of Giza Criminal Court decision.]  Because of this, the journalists were sentenced to between seven to ten years imprisonment. This lower court’s decision in particular has been criticized for the lack of evidence presented at trial to convict the journalists. Moving forward, it is important to note that on January 1, 2015, the Court of Cassation annulled the Giza Criminal Court’s ruling, and the matter was brought before the Cairo Criminal Court.

Decision Overview

The charges brought against the defendants alleged that they had fabricated news in order to disturb public order, security, and the international reputation of Egypt, and that they aided a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, the journalists were also accused of working without press credentials and secretly operating out of the Marriott hotel in Cairo without a permit. The Cairo Criminal Court, on August 29, 2015, held that all three defendants were guilty and sentenced each to three years imprisonment, with an added six months for Baher Mohamed for charges regarding weapon possession.

The court held that “[t]he accused journalists broadcast false news on purpose, in order to support the Muslim Brotherhood group and sabotage Egypt’s stability, giving up their media neutrality.” Furthermore, it held that “it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the al-Jazeera media channel has dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction and that they have permanently sided with them at the expense of their media ethics…[t]his provides enough ground for a conviction of belonging to a group based on violations of the law.”

On September 23, 2015, journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been released followed by a presidential pardon. Even though journalists Peter Greste was released his case continues in absentia.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This case contracts expression because not only does the court criminalize journalistic behavior that is important to freedom of expression, but this case sets a standard that very little evidence is required to fulfill these types of charges.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Egypt, Penal Code art. 86
  • Egypt, Law Number 97 of 1992

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

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