LONDON, June 24 (UPI) -- The BBC held a silent protest Tuesday exactly 24 hours after three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to prison in Egypt for "spreading false news."
Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were all sentenced to seven years in prison for "supporting a terrorist organization" with false stories. Mohamed was given an additional three years for possession of ammunition.
Media and news outlets around the world have condemned the convictions as a violation of press freedom and started the #FreeAJstaff campaign on social media.
James Harding, BBC director of news and current affairs, addressed hundreds of journalists gathered Tuesday with black tape over their mouths and holding signs with the viral hashtag.
"The verdict is unjust. The case is unfounded and taken together, the Egyptian authorities are not just robbing three innocent men of their freedom; they are intimidating journalists and inhibiting free speech," he said.
Harding said the BBC and other news organizations will write to the Egyptian president, urging him to address this "injustice."
"The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the government of Egypt's narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt," said the White House in a statement released Monday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the verdicts Monday after speaking with the Egyptian president and foreign minister..
"Today's verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law. I spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry again today to make very clear our deep concerns about these convictions and sentences," he said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Tuesday that he will not interfere in the Al Jazeera case, despite the White House's request for a pardon.