LONDON (AP) — Groups of journalists and their supporters joined Thursday in protesting the detention of four Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt, sending gagged protesters into public squares, picketing Egyptian embassies, and packing newsrooms with journalists carrying signs: "Journalism is not a crime."
Thursday's international day of action is meant to secure the freedom of Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Abdullah Al Shamy, who are among 20 defendants being tried on charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization for their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have pleaded not guilty.
"We truly appreciate the solidarity from everybody right around the world," said Mostefa Souag, the acting general director of Al Jazeera Media Network. He said the day of vigils and rallies "is about objective reporting and to ensure journalists cannot be gagged or silenced."
Sohair Younis, the press counselor for Egypt's Embassy in London, told the AP the rallies would have no effect on the prosecution.
"There is a case in front of a court," she said. "We will not cancel the trial because of the protest."
Rallies were held across the world, from London's Trafalgar Square — where black balloons were released over the church of St. Martin in the Fields — to Lebanon's Martyrs' Square, where protesters rallied against the backdrop of Mohammad al-Amin Mosque. In Rio de Janeiro, the broadcaster said a plane was due to fly a banner labeled "#FreeAJstaff" over the Brazilian city's famous beaches.
Media workers, free-speech advocates and other supporters placed pieces of masking tape across their mouths to symbolize the silencing of the world's press, many uploading selfies from home or the office with handmade signs calling for the staffers' release.
The Associated Press is one of dozens of media organizations which has called on authorities in Cairo to free the journalists.
Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://twitter.com/razhael