#FreeAJstaff: Letter from David Enders, friend and colleague of Mohamed Fahmy

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

By David Enders

I met Mohammed Fahmy in Baghdad in 2003, as both of us were beginning our careers as journalists. Immediately, I admired his bravery and ability to get to the bottom of stories, even in a place as dangerous and opaque as Iraq. His energy was boundless and infectious, and we kept in touch over the years and occasionally crossed paths in our work and travels.

Working for CNN in Cairo before and after the January 25th revolution, Mo’s tirelessness and talents were again on display—for the first time, he could work freely in his own country. In addition to his coverage of the revolution on January 25th, from which he produced a book of photographs, he created award winning documentaries for CNN about human trafficking and the dire situation in the Sinai Peninsula.

When I congratulated him on his award, he demurred. Mo was more pleased that shortly after the documentary aired, some of the smugglers, embarrassed by the attention and under increased pressure from the government, released hundreds of migrants they had been holding,

All journalists want their work to mean something, but few of us manage to achieve it. Mo could inspire envy with his ability to do amazing work in some of the toughest places; I considered myself lucky to be his friend, and even luckier to finally become his colleague when he was hired by Al Jazeera.

He risked his safety dozens of times on behalf of his colleagues, including an assault against his crew during a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo, during which he shielded another journalist as she was set upon by demonstrators. When the story was related to me by a colleague, I was hardly surprised by Mo’s actions. Even less surprised that when I got a hold of Mo some hours later, he was back at work outside the embassy.

The last time I exchanged emails with Mo, we were both excited about the possibility of getting to work together for the first time as employees of the same organization, not knowing quite how dramatically things would soon change. He was acutely aware of the risks and that they were being followed and surveilled by the police. Widespread Egyptian condemnation of Jazeera was also on his mind:

“Just yesterday, two engineers from AJ Misr [Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel Mubasher Misr] were arrested. … Even my distant family look down at me for joining. All I can do is do my best with integrity.”

“If I get arrested, make sure to make a buzz loud enough to get me released.“

Mo maintained good connections with people in various parts of Egyptian society across the country. It was simply part of doing his job, and I hoped it might protect him. Obviously it did not. It hurts to see him in a cage, trying to explain to a judge the most basic tenets of the work he has been doing for a decade. Much of his work over the years has dealt with the plight of those unjustly detained, now he is among them.

Let Mo go. His family and fiancée are waiting. He is a citizen the Egyptian government should be proud of, not one they should be jailing.

David Enders is a friend and colleague of Mohamed Fahmy. He is also a producer of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines.