To His Excellency Adly Mahmoud Mansour Office of the President Al-Ittihadia Palace, Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt,
Dear President Mansour:
As faculty members of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, we write to protest the continuing detention of, and criminal proceedings directed against, reporters, producers and other news professionals of Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English.
In 2011, in recognition of its excellence and integrity, the faculty of our school bestowed the Columbia Journalism Award upon Al Jazeera English. This award is given annually to a single organization for practicing "singular journalism in the public interest." Today we are particularly alarmed at the politically-motivated criminal prosecution of this widely-respected network's three staffers Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohammed -- veteran news professionals and citizens of three nations -- as well as the other Al Jazeera and independent journalists facing charges in this case.
The charges against Al Jazeera/Al Jazeera English staff -- such as "holding illegal meetings" with the Muslim Brotherhood -- in effect criminalize universally-recognized standards for professional journalism practice, which require that all sides in public disputes and controversies be reported. As teachers of journalism students from around the world, we recognize that Egyptian civil society is in a time of debate and transition, but such times are precisely when the mission of independent journalism is most relevant. Journalism is not terrorism. Neither is dissent whether printed or online.
We also condemn the harsh conditions under which the Al Jazeera English team are being held, described in a letter from Mr. Greste as confining his fellow prisoners "24 hours a day in their mosquito-infested cells, sleeping on the floor with no books or writing materials to break the soul-destroying tedium." We note that Mr. Fahmy has been denied medical treatment for a shoulder injury sustained during his arrest, although he requested such treatment as recently as his bail hearing last week.
We urge your Government and the Office of Public Prosecutor to drop this tainted proceeding, and to free all journalists from Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English, along with any other news-gatherers now in custody.
Emily Bell, Professor of Professional Practice & Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Helen Benedict, Professor
Nina Berman, Associate Professor
Steve Coll, Dean & Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism
Ann Cooper, CBS Professor of Professional Practice in International Journalism
Sheila Coronel, Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism & Director, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism
June Cross, Professor
John Dinges, Godfrey Lowell Cabot Professor of Journalism
Howard French, Associate Professor
Todd Gitlin, Professor & Chair, PhD Program
Ari Goldman, Professor
Lynnell Hancock, H. Gordon Garbedian Professor of Journalism & Director, Spencer Fellowship Program
Julie Hartenstein, Associate Dean
Marguerite Holloway, Associate Professor & Director. Science and Environmental Journalism
Melanie Huff, Associate Dean of Students
David Klatell, Professor of Professional Practice & Chair, International Studies
Dale Maharidge, Professor
Judith Matloff, Adjunct Professor
Victor Navasky, George T. Delacorte Professor in Magazine Journalism; Director, Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism; Chair, Columbia Journalism Review
Mirta Ojito, Assistant Professor
Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director, Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma and Acting Director, Professional Programs
Michael Shapiro, Professor
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Adjunct Professor
Alisa Solomon, Professor & Director, Arts Concentration, M.A. Program
Terri Thompson, Director, Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism
Duy Linh Tu, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice & Director, Digital Media Program
Andi Tucher, Associate Professor; Director, Ph.D. Program
Richard Wald, Fred W. Friendly Professor of Professional Practice in Media and Society
Abi Wright, Executive Director, Professional Prizes
Note: Faculty members have signed this letter as individuals. This letter does not represent the Trustees of Columbia University.