June 23, 2014

Kaine Statement On Conviction Of Al Jazeera Journalists

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs, released the following statement today after three Al Jazeera journalists were convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison:

“The conviction today of foreign journalists in Egypt is most troubling.  There are few democratic principles so well-established as the right of reporters to inform the public without fear of persecution.

“It is my deepest hope that the Egyptian government, under the leadership of newly elected President al-Sisi, will turn away from the oppression of journalists and recognize the role of a vigorous and independent press in a great nation.  During a recent visit to Egypt, I conducted a press conference with Egyptian and international journalists.  It was a robust discussion with tough questions about US policy in the region and the current state of affairs in Egypt.  The various press outlets reported the conference in different ways, depending upon their points of view.  But it is exactly the kind of interaction that no confident government should fear or seek to silence.

“The U.S.-Egypt relationship has been a strong and important one.  We have so many interests in common – from the joint effort to counter terrorism, to the maintenance and advance of peace in the region, to strategic development of the Egyptian economy.  And it is in both countries' interests that this partnership grow even stronger. But the partnership is limited, and even jeopardized, when basic rights such as a free press are curtailed.  Additional challenges such as the imprisonment of foreign aid workers and suppression of political opposition are also troubling. 

“The new Egyptian government can and should send a strong signal that it will pursue a path that respects human rights.  There could be no clearer signal of a positive intent than the overturning of the recent convictions of journalists who, in reporting on obviously newsworthy events, were merely doing their jobs.”