Johannesburg - The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) expressed shock on Monday at the conviction and sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt.

“What started off as the dawn of the Arab Spring has turned into a nightmare where freedoms of Egyptian people are treated with disdain by the ruling military-aligned government,” Sanef said in a statement.

“The sentencing of the journalists comes as African leaders gather in Equitorial Guinea for a summit of heads of state and governments.”

Sanef, which is part of the African Editors' Forum (TAEF), called on the African Union Commission to ensure that the summit condemned the sentencing of the journalists.

It also wanted Egypt's participation in the AU to be suspended until it observed its principles and protocols.

“Sanef also calls on TAEF to embark on continent-wide protests against this heinous act by the Egyptian government.”

The three Al Jazeera journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were arrested in Cairo in December last year while covering the aftermath of the coup that deposed Mohamed Morsi.

They were sentenced on Monday to seven years in prison each on terrorism-related charges.

Baher Mohamed was sentenced to three extra years in prison on separate charges.

Sapa