From left, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al Jazeera Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, appear in a courtroom in Cairo. File picture: Heba Elkholy, El Shorouk Newspaper

Johannesburg - The sentencing of three journalists by an Egyptian court is a degradation to the principles of freedom of expression and association, the FXI said on Tuesday.

“This kind of action is unacceptable, particularly from a country whose constitution enshrines the right to free expression, and more especially since Egypt as a country is emerging from a popular revolt against dictatorship and repression,” Freedom of Expression Institute executive director Phenyo Dean Butale said in a statement.

A Cairo court sentenced the Al-Jazeera journalists for aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement and “spreading false news”.

Award-winning Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail on Monday, while producer Baher Mohamed was handed 10 years.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the Egyptian authorities were angered by Al-Jazeera's coverage of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his supporters.

Since Morsi was ousted in July last year, more than 1400 people were killed and about 15 000 were jailed in a government crackdown in Egypt.

Butale said the court's verdict would “perpetuate Egypt's poor ratings on the international sphere.

“We condemn this move which is clearly not in touch with the international standard and requirement of a free and unfettered press in a democracy,” said Butale.