Al Jazeera has condemned a claim by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that its journalists were activists rather than impartial observers.
The Qatar-based media network also defended its coverage of an air strike by Egypt in Libya last month after Sisi said it had fabricated footage of dead children.
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“Al Jazeera had conclusively proved the authenticity of the footage at the time,” the network said.
Sisi’s comments were made to a group of visiting African journalists when they asked about the ongoing case of the two Al Jazeera journalists currently being retried in Egypt.
“The Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt had turned into activists instead of objective journalists. Look at what they reported about our intervention in Libya against the ISIS for killing 21 Egyptian [Coptic Christians],” Sisi had said.
“They went and picked a picture they took in Syria and claimed that was Libya as a result of our air strikes on the ISIS positions. They claimed we had killed children and women.”
Al Jazeera had aired one report of children killed by air strikes in Libya since Egypt’s militiary intervention.
The February 16 report of Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel included footage of children killed by Egyptian air strikes in Derna.
“Despite false accusations of inaccurate reporting by Egyptian media, all witnesses to the attack verified the authenticity of the Al Jazeera report,” the network said.
A spokesperson said that claiming Al Jazeera would fake footage of dead children was a “shocking” accusation.
“Sisi’s attack on Al Jazeera’s factual reporting is a poor and misguided attempt to draw attention away from the facts of the ongoing retrial of our journalists in Egypt. Before their arrests, Baher [Mohamed] and Mohamed [Fahmy] helped produce our accurate, balanced and comprehensive journalism in Egypt. All the work they were involved in is available to view online.
“The president has previously said that he wished this case had never arisen, and recently promised to free Baher and Mohamed. Rather than make misleading and false claims regarding Al Jazeera’s coverage, the president’s efforts should be concentrated on ending this miscarriage of justice.”
The next retrial hearing in the two Al Jazeera journalist’s case is scheduled for Wednesday.
The previous two court sessions were adjourned quickly after prosecution witnesses failed to appear.
“Al Jazeera has communicated to its journalists to continue to concentrate on the case and to forgo any public comments on the case that may harm the ongoing retrial,” Al Jazeera said.
Al Jazeera’s Baher Mohamed, a producer, and Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief, have been held in an Egyptian jail since December 29, 2013.
Mohamed and Fahmy are falsely accused of colluding with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt released Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste, who had been also held since December 2013, in February.