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Letter to Catherine Ashton on Egypt and trial of journalists


Brussels, 9 June 2014

Honourable Lady Ashton, Recent developments in Egypt are cause for great concern. In a climate of fear and intimidation, elections were held. Many questions about those remain, as critical voices are systematically silenced by President Sisi. The actions by security forces against demonstrations and the Muslim Brotherhood have been especially aggressive and deadly. As part of this broader campaign which has seriously repressed the freedom of expression, 19 journalists (both foreign and Egyptian) are being tried. Among them are the Australian Peter Greste and the Dutch Rena Netjes. They are accused of smearing the state and being a member of a terrorist organisation. Earlier this week, the public prosecution announced that it would be seeking the maximum penalty, which could mean between 15 and 25 years in jail. The freedom of the press and media is a vital element for democracy and an open society. As such, it should be one of the focal points of EU action concerning Egypt, as part of a broader and coherent EU strategy which would focus on improving the rights, freedoms and opportunities of Egyptians as we develop relations with the country. I also refer to my previously written letter of 17 April 2014 in which, along with colleagues, I had asked for your strategy regarding Egypt. Thus far I have received no answer to the questions what the European Commission and the Member States are planning in their relations with Egypt generally, and in reaction to this trial specifically. Sincerely, Marietje Schaake