Egyptian prosecutors charged [Al Jazeera press release] 20 Al Jazeera [official website] journalists on Wednesday for joining or conspiring with a terrorist group and broadcasting false images. The journalists are accused of altering and broadcasting video footage of false scenes of a civil war and influencing public opinion toward thinking Egypt is in a state of collapse in order to assist the Muslim Brotherhood [party website; JURIST news archive], which was declared a terrorist group [JURIST report] last December by the Egyptian government. The 16 Egyptian defendants were charged with joining a terrorist group [NYT report] in order to damage national security and peace, while the four foreign defendants were charged with collaboration with the Egyptian defendants. All of the defendants were charged with possessing documents and records promoting the Brotherhood and operating communications equipment without a permit. If convicted, each defendant could receive several years in prison. Eight of the 20 defendants are in custody; authorities have held five without charges, and at least three of them since late December [JURIST report]. A trial date has not been set [AP report], and the full list of charges has not been issued.
The Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] published a report last December finding Syria the most dangerous nation in the world for journalists [JURIST report], with Egypt and Iraq just behind. Egypt saw a considerable increase in journalist deaths in part because of the sectarian and political violence. Al Jazeera took legal action against the Egyptian government [JURIST report] in September, accusing the regime of detaining journalists [Al Jazeera report] without charges or on politically motivated charges, raiding Al Jazeera offices, confiscating equipment and jamming transmission of broadcasts. Al Jazeera demanded [press release] that the journalists detained in December should be released.