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8 Al Jazeera journalists charged by Egyptian authorities, network says

By Chelsea J. Carter and Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 8:19 PM EST, Wed February 5, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eight Al Jazeera journalists are named on an Egyptian charge sheet, the network says
  • The eight were among 20 people named
  • "Most are not employees of Al Jazeera," the network said
  • The eight include three journalists jailed in Egypt

(CNN) -- Egyptian authorities have served Al Jazeera with a charge sheet that identifies eight of its staff on a list of 20 people -- all believed to be journalists -- for allegedly conspiring with a terrorist group, the network said Wednesday.

The 20 are wanted by Egyptian authorities on charges of conspiring with a terror group and "broadcasting false information and rumors to convince the international community that Egypt was undergoing a civil war," according to Egypt's state-run media.

The eight Al Jazeera journalists include three -- Australian Peter Greste, and Eygptians Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy -- who have been held by authorities since December 29, the network said in a written statement.

The charges against the journalists come amid a military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood following the ouster of the country's first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsy.

Video shows journalists getting arrested
Al Jazeera demands release of journalists

Egyptian authorities say the three jailed Al Jazeera journalists held illegal meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group in December.

Western leaders, human rights groups and journalists have repeatedly called on Egypt to release the men, saying their arrests were a violation of human rights and media freedoms.

In the statement, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera said it "has finally been officially served, allowing the network to comment on the case for the first time."

"Eight network staff are on the list of twenty, meaning most of those named are not employees of Al Jazeera," it said.

Al Jazeera English managing editor Al Anstey called for the charges to be dropped, saying the allegations were "unjust and unacceptable."

"Journalists exist to cover and challenge all sides of every story, so the idea we would broadcast 'false news' is not only totally wrong, it is also a challenge to journalism itself and the critical role journalism plays in informing people worldwide what is really going on," Anstey said in a statement released by Al Jazeera.

Anstey stood by the network's coverage, saying all of its videos were available online.

"Everyone can clearly see they are accurate, comprehensive, balanced and underpinned with quality and integrity. The reports tell all sides of the complex story in Egypt," he said.

In addition to Greste, British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes were named on the charge sheet, according to Al Jazeera.

"I am astounded that a warrant is out for my arrest because of my reporting in Egypt last year. I didn't treat the situation there any differently to every other story I've reported on in almost 25 years as a TV reporter," said Turton, who worked for Britain's SkyNews, ITN and Channel 4 before joining Al Jazeera.

Kane, who worked for BBC before joining Al Jazeera, said they were doing a difficult job under "trying circumstances."

"I have always sought to cover the events I witness with impartiality and accuracy. I trust that all who watch my reports will see that," he said.

Of the other Al Jazeera employees named, Al Jazeera identified them only as Egyptian producers and engineers working for the network in Doha, "all of whom refute the charges against them," the statement said.

It is not immediately clear who the remaining 14 people are. Egyptian state media reported last month that all 20 worked for Al Jazeera.

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