ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES – The Al Jazeera journalists who were jailed in Egypt are now free and out of the country. Australian Peter Greste was deported in February 2015 and in September his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy were finally pardoned by the Egyptian government and released from prison. By October they left Egypt. Even better news is that they are not going to keep quiet.
Baher Mohamed upon returning to Qatar received a hero’s welcome at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha. He told his colleagues that he was proud to stand for a cause like media freedom and revealed his high ambitions: “I want the immediate release of every single journalist behind bars in the world” and he fully intends to work for that goal. To this end, he offered to help Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter arrested in Iran for espionage charges.
Luckily, it seems that incarceration has given Mohamed plenty of motivation. Rezaian’s case would be difficult, but so will Qatar’s. Mohamed may stand on firmer ground at Al Jazeera, which exercises a great deal of media freedom, but much of Qatar is on somewhat thin ice. Mohamed stressed, “press freedom is the core of democracy, without press freedom there won’t be democracy.” Qatar’s leading English newspapers, The Peninsula and The Gulf Times, more aware of the fact that they live in a monarchy, did not mention the comments on democracy.
His colleague, Mohamed Fahmy, has long renounced his Egyptian Citizenship in favor of his Canadian citizenship. He returned to Vancouver simply wanting to relax, saying, “Vancouver is just the best place to do that.” But, he is willing to speak out and also intends to advocate media freedom. Given Canada’s stance on press, he’s more apt to speak out against the powers that be with less fear.
Fahmy is known for being fairly blunt about the reasons for his incarceration. First, it was Egypt’s warning to journalists about the consequences of spreading “false news.” Second, it was a message to Qatar, die-hard supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood according to Fahmy. He has spoken in the past about Qatar using Al Jazeera in a media war to support the ousted Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Despite Al Jazeera’s reputation for excellent unbiased reporting, they are guilty of some bias in Egypt. For these journalists, the fight for media freedom may begin at the organization that paid them and gave them work.