Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt for 200 days

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Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. (Photo: Al Jazeera English)

Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. (Photo: Al Jazeera English)

Three Al Jazeera journalists have now spent 200 days in an Egyptian jail after being arrested last year on various terrorism charges, and there is little to suggest that their status will change anytime soon.

Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail last month after an Egyptian court convicted them on charges of reporting false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Their colleague, Baher Mohamed, was sentenced to jail for ten years on the same charges as well as an additional charge of possessing a shell casing that he had found during a protest.

The three were arrested last December at a hotel in Cairo by Egyptian security forces. Throughout their detention, international human rights organizations and foreign governments alike have encouraged Egypt’s leaders to release the men, calling the trial a “sham.”

Egyptian officials have defended the trial, saying it is unlikely that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will issue a pardon anytime soon.

The convictions were met with an initial wave of shock and condemnation from foreign leaders and journalists around the world. Several key Egyptian allies called on the government to rectify the situation. One day after the verdict, journalists at Al Jazeera and the BBC held a silent protest that was televised around the world.

But since then, the story has largely fallen out of the news cycle. Gone are the days when angry journalists pressed U.S. officials for an explanation on the millions in humanitarian aid donated to Egypt while their colleagues were being jailed. Newsrooms have gone back to their usual order of business. Foreign officials have moved on to other diplomatic matters.

It’s the sort of thing Greste, a veteran of the news industry himself, was afraid might happen.

“[Greste] wants to emphasize how important it is to them – not just for emotional reasons, but for their safety – that their story is kept alive,” his brother Michael Greste told The Guardian in June.

Wednesday’s 200-day anniversary will likely bring renewed attention to the story — if only because of the date —and interest in it will certainly go as quickly as it comes. That a story with such significance has fallen out of the news cycle is as much a damning verdict against the three men as the one handed down in an Egyptian court in June.