Although an Al-Jazeera cameraman, Mohamed Badr, has just been acquitted of charges of ‘carrying out acts of violence and thuggery’ last July, other journalists, including Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent who has worked for the BBC and Reuters in the past, remain in prison. Greste is just one of 20 journalists for the Qatar-based network who have been referred to trial, and their treatment has been widely condemned by human rights groups. Here is an extract from Greste’s own reflections on his arrest:
Of course, the allegations we are facing suggest anything but normal journalistic endeavours. The state has accused three of us – myself, and producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed – of collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood to use unlicensed equipment to broadcast information we knew to be false to defame and destabilise Egypt. Fahmy and Baher are further accused of being MB members. It’s a rap sheet that would be comically absurd if it wasn’t so deadly serious.
Let me be clear: I have no desire to weaken Egypt nor in any way see it struggle. Nor do I have any interest in supporting any group, the Muslim Brotherhood or otherwise. But then our arrest doesn’t seem to be about our work at all. It seems to be about staking out what the government here considers to be normal and acceptable. Anyone who applauds the state is seen as safe and deserving of liberty. Anything else is a threat that needs to be crushed.
And here is part of the prosecutors’ statement of charges against him:
Broadcasting false statements, news and rumors and unreal images about the domestic conditions of the country and displaying them for the audience, domestic and foreign, to suggest to international public opinion that the country is undergoing a civil war in order to weaken the state’s standing and prestige and to damage the national interest of the country and disturb public security.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, has urged Egypt to release Greste and the other detained journalists.
Gene adds: NPR’s On The Media program featured a revealing interview with Lina Attalah, editor of the online Egyptian newspaper Mada Masr, about the crackdown on independent journalists and on dissent generally– not just by the Muslim Brotherhood but by liberal and secular activists.