Egypt: Dutch journo gets 10-year prison sentence

rena netjes
Twitter profile picture of Rena Netjes (Rena Netjes/Twitter). (Twitter profile picture of Rena Netjes (Rena Netjes/Twitter))

Dutch Journalist Rena Netjes is among a group of people in the profession who have been sentenced to prison in Egypt on charges of terrorism and endangering national security. The Egyptian government has sentenced Netjes to 10 years. The case has been another enlightening moment of realization at the state of Egypt's restrictions on basic human rights. 

Among the other professionals who have been convicted are thee journalists from Al Jazeera. Canadian-Edyptian Mohamed Fahmy who used to work for CNN, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, also a local producer and Australian ex-BBC correspondent Peter Grested. They have been sentenced to seven years, after being in an Egyptian prison cell since December.

Rena Netjes, British journalist Sue Turton and Dominic Kane have been sentenced in absentia to ten years, after 15 years was demanded. In total, 20 journalists have been accused.

The Egyptian government is claiming that these journalists are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. These terrorism-related charges are creating international outcry as the concept of freedom of speech has been seemingly entirely ignored.

Netjes told her employer BNR that she "can never go back to Egypt", and may also never be allowed to travel to Africa or the Middle-East. She says that the situation in Egypt has been brought into the spotlight with this involvement of Westerners. "I will not keep my mouth shut. There are thousands of innocent boys and girls detained. Not only Muslim brothers, also liberal activists."

Minister Frans Timmermans of Foreign Affairs has summoned the Egyptian ambassador to the Ministry in The Netherlands. He will also discuss the matter in Luxembourg with his EU-colleagues today.

The three Al Jazeera English journalists have been charged of terrorist-alliances. On the 30th of June, during a protest against former president Mohamed Mursi on Tahir square, the journalists apparently "selectively" filmed. According to Al Jazeera, the journalists in question were not even in Egypt at the time.

Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms calls this a message. "It's a warning to all journalists that the could one day face a similar trial and conviction simply for carrying out their official duties", Lotfy said. "This feeds into a wider picture of a politicized judiciary and the use of trials to crack down on all opposition voices."

In a press release, Al Jazeera says that the charges are false, and cannot be supported with evidence. "'Guilty' of covering stories with great skill and integrity. 'Guilty' of defending people's right to know what is going on in their world."

Netjes has been charged with spreading false information, and working with Al Jazeera to create a platform for the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Netjes insists she has never worked for Al Jazeera, and only spoke to acting head Mohammed Fahmy once, and had a coffee with him. She worked in Egypt for BNR, Het Parool and the NOS.

In February, Rena Netjes escaped Egypt when it became known that she was going to be charged. For now, she plans on staying in The Netherlands, fighting the cause from here, and not to return to Egypt. As of yet, it is unclear what further effects the verdict could have.

The journalist shines an insistent light on the situation in Egypt, and the plight of the protesters there. Many people are arrested and detained on false or non-existent charges. The government rarely has a leg to stand on in these charges.

"This shows that any idea of an Arab Spring is lost in a country where these kinds of punishments are dealt to journalists", Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Netherlands Association of Journalists (NVJ), told