Journalists of the world, unite
Media workers around the globe come together to call for the release of Al Jazeera journalists held in Egypt.
Last updated: 20 Jan 2014
Three Al Jazeera journalists have been in prison in Egypt since December 29, 2013 [Al Jazeera]
|Here we go again; three of our colleagues who've been arrested in Egypt for allegedly communicating with the recently banned Muslim Brotherhood, decreed a "terrorist" organisation, have had their arrest extended. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed are the latest victims of a series of crackdowns on journalists in the Middle East and beyond. Two other Al Jazeera journalists Mohammed Badr and Abdullah al-Shami have been in prison since July 2013.|
In response, scores of renowned journalists from around the world have signed a letter demanding the release of our colleagues. The letter states:
"We, the undersigned correspondents and editors of international news organizations covering Egypt, hereby call for the immediate release of our colleagues Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have been arbitrarily imprisoned since December 29. We are deeply concerned to learn that our colleagues, all three of whom are well respected journalists, may face charges that include belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading false news that could endanger national security.
We also call for the release of other journalists who have been detained in Egypt, some of whom have been arbitrarily imprisoned for over five months.
The arrest of these journalists has cast a cloud over press and media freedom in Egypt. We strongly believe that upholding the rights of journalists and permitting the free flow of information is vital to bringing about greater understanding and serves the best interests of all Egyptians and the world."Such collegiality is as ethical as it is strategic.
CNN's most familiar face internationally, Christiane Amanpour who signed the letter, has complained on air last week about the fact that "three of my colleagues were in jail for doing their job". (Thanks to Amanpour's gesture, I almost forgot that CNN has hired Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US to provide, in his words, a "balanced" perspective to the viewers of the cable news network)
Controlling the message
Our imprisoned colleagues join a long list of reporters killed, injured and imprisoned in recent years. Paradoxically, while the media has grown ever more influential in recent times, its foot soldiers are ever more exposed as they are targeted.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 211 journalists were in prison in 2013, and 232 in 2012, the two worst years on record. Moreover, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2013, 70 where the motive was confirmed, and 25 where the motive was not confirmed. That's almost two journalists killed a week.
The three countries with the worst and deadliest record are: Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. And while extremists groups were accountable for a great deal of harm, the regimes were politically, legally and morally responsible for the deteriorating situation.
Since the July 3, 2012 coup d'etat, Egypt's generals have been particularly eager to silence their critics in the local and international media. The genie had to be put back in the proverbial bottle after the wave of Arab uprisings unleashed the momentum towards freedom of expression.
According to a leaked video, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been keen on restraining the media: "It takes a long time before you're able to affect and control the media. We are working on this and we are achieving more positive results, but we are yet to achieve what we want."
Needless to say, controlling information in the age of the technological revolution is rather improbable, especially in Egypt where new and social media have connected millions of citizens. But the regime is adamant on undoing the damage caused by what it believes was "unfair" coverage by foreign journalists.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Posted by shamsul Islam Naz at 7:26 AM