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Hunger-striking Al-Jazeera journalist freed in Egypt

Practicing journalism is not a crime
Practicing journalism is not a crime
Committee to Protect Journalists (

According to today's report at Press TV, the Egyptian government will release Abdullah al-Shami (Elshamy), one of twelve captives who are being freed due to health concerns.

Of the twelve being released, Abdullah Elshamy is the only journalist. He works for Al-Jazeera as a foreign correspondent.

Over sixteen journalists remain, many of whom were working for local and international news media when they were imprisoned after the military crackdown following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi last summer.

The 26-year old Elshamy had been on a hunger strike since January (for 147 days).

Al-Jazeera America reports: "He was arrested on Aug. 14 while covering the violent dispersal of sit-ins by supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the army in July."

According to Sherif Mansour, in "On the Divide: Press Freedom at Risk in Egypt" following the coup last July, the military (led by General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi) immediately censored television stations, government publications, and newspapers. Leaders suspected of being pro-Morsi sympathizers, as well as media broadcasters, led to many being detained or worse.

At least six have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which published an open letter in May to the Egyptian presidential candidates (General) Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi to investigate the deaths and release the sixteen journalists named.

The presence of Australian Al-Jazeera reporter Peter Greste among the sixteen has evoked widespread support around the world including using social media such as streaming, Tumblr, and Twitter #FreeAJStaff.

The award-winning international correspondent, his producer Baher Mohamed and bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were detained at their hotel on December 29th, then taken to a high security prison.

Al-Jazeera America reports the three are accused by their Egyptian prosecutors with "spreading false news and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood," whether due to filming or reporting on assaults in Tahrir Square on June 30, 2013.

Also implicated in absentia are Al-Jazeera's correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, who also covered events in Egypt.

On May 30th yet another free-lance journalist, Rasha Gaafar, affiliated with Al-Jazeera Qatar was imprisoned for allegedly "filming empty polling stations during the country's three-day presidential election held earlier this week," according to Press TV.

Now that Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has won the presidency with a majority of the votes, he could regain the respect of human rights advocates by freeing journalists wrongfully imprisoned.

In a news release, "Egypt: Free Illegally Jailed Journalist," Human Rights Watch writes:

The continued detention of the Al Jazeera correspondents violates the journalists’ fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the country’s 2014 constitution, as well as international human rights law. Article 65 of the new constitution holds that 'Freedom of thought and opinion are guaranteed,' and that 'Every person shall have the right to express his or her opinion verbally, in writing, through imagery, or by any other means of expression and publication.'

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