Koenders concerned about convictions of Al-Jazeera journalists

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders is concerned about the sentencing of journalists in Egypt on Saturday.

‘The Netherlands joins other nations in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to leave journalists alone to do their jobs, unless there are legitimate charges against them,’ said Mr Koenders. The minister said it was also important to address the conviction in absentia of the journalists in the Al-Jazeera case.  

Last year, Dutch journalist Rena Netjes was sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison. Netjes had already left Egypt by then, and can no longer return to the country because of the court’s ruling. A number of British journalists were also convicted in absentia in the same trial. The journalists convicted on Saturday can appeal the judgment against them.

Mr Koenders emphasised that freedom of the press is essential to society. ‘A democracy can only function if power is held to account. Journalists play an important role in this regard, in Egypt as in other countries.’  

The minister is concerned that restrictions on journalists are increasing in many parts of the world. ‘Journalists are being hindered in their work more and more. In extreme cases, they are being arrested or even tortured or killed. We have to fight against this trend. Journalism is one of the cornerstones of a civilised society.’