By Alexandra Zakreski
This morning 20 journalists detained or in hiding in Egypt were formally charged with assisting or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, one of three Al Jazeera journalists currently detained in Cairo, is reported to be one of the journalists charged. Fahmy and two of his colleagues, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, have been unjustly detained in the notoriously brutal Tora prison since December 29, 2013.
The charges against these journalists stem from their reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has recently been declared a terrorist organization in Egypt. CJFE condemns Egypt’s equating reporting on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood with being a member of the organization. It is also extremely concerning that Fahmy is being treated as an Egyptian national despite holding Canadian citizenship. This seemingly minor detail may have serious implications for Fahmy’s case, as his treatment at the hands of Egyptian authorities has already greatly differed from that of his Australian colleague, Peter Greste.
Fahmy has consistently been denied access to medical treatment needed for a shoulder injury, and is being detained separately from his colleagues, in what Greste has described as a “far more draconian ‘Scorpion prison’ built for convicted terrorists.” Fahmy is also being portrayed as the ringleader of a secret ad hoc media organization intending to destabilize the current military regime, and his fellow imprisoned journalists are believed to be members of this group. The prosecution alleges:
“investigations showed the defendants created a media network headed by an Egyptian-Canadian Muslim Brotherhood member [Mohamed Fahmy] that has specialized in creating video scenes contrary to reality and aired them through Qatari Al Jazeera English to distort Egypt’s international reputation.”
Additional charges against the group of 20 include “disturbing public peace, instilling terror, harming the general interests of the country, possessing broadcast equipment without permit, possessing and disseminating images contrary to the truth.” The suggestion that these professional journalists are part of a conspiracy to falsely portray the current political turmoil in Egypt to the international community is a blatant attempt to silence and smother free expression in Egypt and strike fear into the hearts of both local and foreign journalists working in the country.
The Egyptian government has consistently portrayed Al Jazeera as biased against the current regime, despite the lack of evidence to support these claims. The charges against these journalists come on the heels of a second letter from Peter Greste, smuggled from prison, in which he describes his confusion at being detained over “pretty mundane reporting.”
It is essential that the Canadian government intervene in the case of Mohamed Fahmy to ensure that these trumped up allegations are dropped, lest he be convicted in a deliberate attack on journalists working in Egypt.
CJFE is closely monitoring Fahmy’s case, and those of the other detained journalists. We will continue to post updates and actions in the coming week.
Al Jazeera | “A chilling warning to others”
Al Jazeera | A letter from Tora prison
Al Jazeera | Timeline: Al Jazeera’s challenges in Egypt
CJFE | CJFE deeply concerned by detention of Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt
The Globe and Mail | Egypt to refer Canadian journalist to trial
The Guardian | Egypt charges 20 Al-Jazeera journalists with belonging to Muslim Brotherhood
Toronto Star | Canadian among 20 Al-Jazeera journalists to be tried on terror charges in Egypt