A wiseman once said, “It’s dangerous to be right in matters which the established authorities are wrong.” That seems to be the exact protocol the authorities in Egypt are following. They have held four Al Jazeera journalists under detention for allegations of terrorism, faking reports and lack of accreditation. Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy have been under detention for 146 days and Abdullah Elshamy has been in detention for 282 days and has been on hunger strike for 123 days in protest to his detention. This came after the military staged a coup against the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected President on July 3, 2013.
Speaking to Live SA, Al Jazeera’s Public Relations Officer, Hasan Salim Patel said, “The situation is a challenge to journalism as a whole. If this is allowed to stand unchallenged, this formula will be repeated elsewhere. Journalists should not be punished for their jobs.” Patel dismissed the authorities’ view that their journalists were biased, inaccurate, deemed to support the terrorists (Muslim Brotherhood) and lacking accreditation to operate in the country. “The accusations change from time to time, but taking each one in turn: terrorism – we report all sides of the story. Some governments may not like this but we make no apology for doing it. Journalism is not terrorism. Faking reports – this is nonsense. Every single one of our Egypt reports are still online for anyone to view, and we defy anyone to poke a hole at any of them. This ‘conspiracy’ is supposed to include seasoned award-winning well-known journalists like Peter Greste and Sue Turton. All of those named are similarly known as professional journalists who approach their work with utmost integrity. Lack of accreditation – if this were the main problem, this is an administration issue, not a criminal one. You don’t hole people up in jail for not having full paperwork.”
The Interim President, Adly Mansour said in a statement in March: “Notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary authorities and the fullness of all rights guaranteed by the law, I would like to assure you (Al Jazeera) in my capacity as President of Egypt that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consisted with the law, in the near future”. This has not yet happened. Instead the case was postponed. The case will resume again on June 1, 2014.
The Egyptian representative in South Africa declined to comment.
In his letter written in Tora prison, Peter Greste described their cells as “scorpion prison” and the conditions they were living in as terrible. “[We] spend 24 hours a day in their mosquito-infested cells, sleeping on the floor with no books or writing material to break the soul-destroying tedium,” he writes.
This has proven the fact that in areas where the truth is not valued as power, those in government will do anything to silence those who are seemingly conscious. This occurs especially when the authorities know or suspect that they are wrong. The persecution of Al Jazeera journalist is uncalled for, the pressure that the global society exerting to Egypt is minimal, human rights should be protected globally and journalism is not a crime!