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Ottawa not doing enough to free Egyptian-Canadian reporter jailed in Cairo:group

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is pictured in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

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Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is pictured in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

TORONTO - Ottawa's timid attempts to free an Egyptian-Canadian journalist imprisoned in Cairo have been ineffective and "shameful," a coalition of media organizations charged Thursday in calling for forceful political intervention.

Mohamed Fahmy was charged last month with several offences, including being a member of a terrorist group.

More than a dozen of his colleagues at the satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera are also facing charges in what's believed to be the first time Egypt has referred journalists to trial for terrorism.

Al Jazeera has denied the allegations and demanded the release of its journalists, saying they were only doing their jobs.

The Canadian government maintained Thursday it is providing consular services to Fahmy and his family and has raised his case with senior Egyptian officials.

But Al Jazeera, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and other media supporters say it isn't enough and question whether Fahmy's dual citizenship is working against him.

"The government's position at this point on this case has been shameful," Tony Burman, a journalism professor and former managing director for Al Jazeera English, said in a news conference Thursday.

"The issue of dual citizenship, the issue of perhaps Al Jazeera, any mention at all in the trumped-up charges by the Egyptian military of the Muslim Brotherhood — these are all things that... could intimidate and inhibit government officials in this country from moving," he said.

"Silence, politeness will result in perhaps something awful happening."

Fahmy's family previously said Canadian officials warned they were hamstrung by the journalist's dual nationality.

He and two of his colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — were taken into custody on Dec. 29 at a hotel room in Cairo where they were working after authorities raided the offices of Al Jazeera English.

He was charged with using illegal equipment, broadcasting false news that endangered national security and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Egypt's military-led government has branded a terrorist organization, his family has said.

After weeks in a cramped, cold, insect-ridden cell, all three journalists were recently moved to a lower-security prison with better conditions, Fahmy's brother tweeted earlier this week.

"Definitely a result of foreign media pressure," Sherif Fahmy wrote.

But Owen Watson, Al Jazeera English's executive producer for newsgathering, said the company is far from optimistic.

"We want the release of our journalists," he said. "There's no compromise on this."

Mohamed Fahmy's case struck a chord with another Canadian recently detained in Egypt — filmmaker John Greyson, who was held last fall along with his colleague Tarek Loubani.

Ottawa's intervention played a key role in the pair's release, Greyson said.

"In Mohamed's case, the Canadian government has done so little, as we've heard — merely repeating platitudes about consular services," he said at the news conference.

"Mohamed deserves the same response from our government that our case received: demanding that the charges be dismissed and that he and the others be released."

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