Being a Journalist is a Crime?!

Peter Greste arrest in Egypt

On April 9, 2014, Amnesty International reported that Egypt’s detention of three Al Jazeera journalists continued with no substantial evidence presented against them.  The journalists were charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.  Amnesty International described these detentions as “vindictive.”  Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director said,

What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs.

He pointed out that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden and was unable to prove any convincing evidence, and the journalists are detained in the hands of the authorities with no substantial reason. He further urged that all three journalists must be released immediately and unconditionally.

The journalists have been detained since the date of their arrests, which was on December 29, 2013.  Along with the journalists, security forces also arrested five Egyptian students two days later.  During the hearing that took place on March 31, 2014, the judge ordered forensic experts to examine the students because they alleged that security forces had beaten them up during the arrest.  Further, despite the fact that one of the journalists needs medical treatment due to a shoulder injury he sustained before his arrest, the authorities continue denying him from receiving adequate medical treatment.  The journalist’s condition is getting worse day by day.  Mr. Sahraouni said,

The trial is nothing more than posturing by the authorities to gain public support.

He thinks that this vindictive detention must end, and the charges must be dropped immediately.

In an attempt to suppress the public voice, the arrests of journalists are common in Egypt, Syria, and Turkey these days because these governments cannot seem to stand any opposition voice to be heard. Journalists should not be arrested, detained, or punished for simply doing their jobs.  In democratic societies, everybody’s voice must be heard, and everyone should be given a chance to speak out.  In this context, the role of journalists is crucial because their job is to make sure that everybody is heard.  Therefore, the authorities should not judge the journalists for publishing something that is in opposition with their message or views.  Freedom of expression is for all, and not for a particular class of people or groups.

What do you think about the detention of Egyptian journalists in light of the ongoing conflict?  How do you think the world community should response to the detention of journalists with no justifiable grounds?  What do you think the role of the UN is in this context?  Should it step in?

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2 comments

  1. Without freedom of the press there is no freedom at all; however, Egypt has been going through continuous conflict and some freedoms may necessarily be shirked in light of the conflict. The United States is prolific for shutting down people’s and groups for exercising their freedom of expression (especially during the Cold War when the Red Scare was ever looming on our coasts), it is unsurprising that other countries that are attempting to democratize would do the same and follow suit. While I do not agree with these detentions, it is hard to not see some justifications for such posturing, but these justifications are slim to say the least. International organizations should shun these actions and sanction offenders for such crimes against humanity. Even in the face of war, people should be allowed to speak up against their government and the government should promote a public discourse on what changes should be made. It is a tough call of whether or not the UN should step in, but I think a better approach would be to denounce these actions, but not take too drastic actions.

  2. Freedom of expression includes the right to communicate your opinion to others without fear of attack. Journalists are bestowed with this right and are responsible for keeping the world informed of conduct taking place all over the world. It is clear why countries such as Egypt would not want the outside world to know of the actions taking place within their territory. With international awareness, countries would not be able to act in the manner they deem appropriate. Under the Egyptian Constitution, Article 55 states that,“ Every person who is either arrested, detained, or his freedom is restricted shall be treated in a manner that maintains his dignity.” It seems as though this right has not being given to the journalists, whose conditions seem to be worsening. As the principal peacekeeper within the international community, the UN possess the responsibility to provide security to all those within the international sphere. However, even though the UN should take action to secure safety, it is hard to say in what manner would be safest.

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