Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Egypt Shames Itself

Canadian Al-Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy talks to lawyer Amal Clooney before his verdict in a courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Amir Nabil/AP

Hopes of an acquittal vanished when on August 29, 2015, an Egyptian court had sentenced Al-Jazeera’s Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed to three years in jail for airing what it described as “false news” and biased coverage.

Eight days later, it released a detailed ruling – published by the state news agency Mena – proclaiming that the three journalists were by default members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which Egyptian authorities consider a terrorist organization.

“It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Al-Jazeera media channel has dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction and that they have permanently sided with them at the expense of their media ethics,” the ruling explained.

“This provides enough ground for a conviction of belonging to a group based on violations of the law.”

The ruling also said the three operated without press credentials and secretly worked at the Marriott hotel in central Cairo without a permit. The journalists and the network deny the accusations.

Al-Jazeera said it would appeal.

Greste had already been deported earlier but the other two were imprisoned. In fact, the retrial of the journalists was repeatedly adjourned before the August verdict. Third-party observers had stated no evidence proved the charges and one can only conclude that this particular case was politically motivated. It must be said that the journalists were just doing their job! T

The case has sparked worldwide condemnation. Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney – who acted for Fahmy – told the BBC: “It’s ironic that the conviction was for tarnishing Egypt’s reputation when ... this [case] is what’s tarnished Egypt’s image”.

As Greste correctly said: “Egypt’s press lost its freedom when my Al-Jazeera colleagues and I lost ours”.

Yesterday, I was in Cyberjaya in Selangor to attend the Dell Cyberspeakers Toastmasters lunchtime meeting. Interesting is how I would describe it. I am learning to be diplomatic.

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