A screen grab of a BBC report by Australian journalist Peter Greste, who now works for Al-Jazeera.

A screen grab of a BBC report by Australian journalist Peter Greste, who now works for Al-Jazeera. Photo: BBC

Cairo: Egyptian prosecutors have accused three detained al-Jazeera journalists, including acclaimed Australian reporter Peter Greste, of broadcasting false news in the service of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

The three journalists were arrested on December 29 in a Cairo hotel.

As well as Greste,  who formerly worked for the BBC, the team also included Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Adel Fahmy.

Earlier reports quoted prosecutors as saying the journalists had confessed they belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood.

However Al Jazeera has denied that its journalists have confessed to the charges levelled against them. 

A spokesman for the Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network rejected the prosecutor's claim, saying: "The prosecutor’s measure of issuing a statement like this is unusual, as it looks like a prejudgement on an ongoing investigation. Claims that anyone has 'confessed' are rejected by our journalists and legal team," he said.

Formal charges against the three have not yet been filed, al-Jazeera reported.

The statement from the chief prosecutor's office stated that the journalists were being interrogated on suspicion of having unlicensed equipment and broadcasting false news that harmed national security, the news service reported. The journalists' lawyers and al-Jazeera have dismissed the allegations as false.

"The accusations against our journalists do not stand up to scrutiny," the broadcaster's spokesman Osama Saeed said in a statement.

Mr Fahmy, a well-known journalist in Cairo who previously worked with CNN, has no known ties with the Brotherhood.

Two other al-Jazeera reporters remain in custody, including Abdullah Elshamy, arrested on August 14 when police dispersed a sit-in against the army's overthrow of president Mohamed Mursi, killing hundreds.

Egyptian authorities have been incensed by al-Jazeera's coverage of their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since the overthrow of the country's first democratically elected president last July.

The government declared the Brotherhood a "terrorist organisation" in December, after accusing it of a suicide bombing at a police headquarters north of Cairo that killed 15 people.

The blacklisting outlaws promotion of the Brotherhood verbally or in writing and can lead to lengthy prison sentences.

AFP