CAIRO: Unlike international media outlets, Egyptian journalists did not cover the trial of Al Jazeera reporters adequatly, in fact, some of them criticized the reporters while others ignored the imprisonment of Egyptian reporters entirely for what appeared to be political precautions.
Al Jazeera correspondents Australian Peter Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven years in prison; 11 defendants were also sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison while two student defendants, Anas El-Beltagy and Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, were acquitted.
All accused suspects face charges of inciting violence, “terrorism,” publishing false news on Qatari-owned network Al Jazeera, and aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
Following these sentences, international media outlets condemned Cairo Criminal Court’s verdict which was announced June 23; BBC journalists and staff demonstrated with black tape over their mouths outside their headquarters in central London, condemning the sentence.
Al Jazeera also stated its objection to the verdict saying it is “appalling” and was delivered “without a shred of evidence.”
Egyptian Syndicate of Journalists announced on June 23 its solidarity with Al Jazeera reporters noting that it still respects judiciary verdicts. It said that the court’s verdict is not final and the jailed reporters have the right to appeal against the sentences.
“All principles anchored by the Court of Cassation assured media freedom and freedom of expression; in addition, the constitution highlights media independence and guarantees journalists’ protection while doing their jobs,” the statement read.
Journalists will send a request asking for the release of the imprisoned journalists, treasurer of the Syndicate Khaled Miry told Manshit (Scoop) program on ON T.V. channel June 23; the syndicate is yet to issue a statement addressing this request.
Regarding Egyptian journalists’ coverage on the case, journalism was politically affected; Egypt’s media coverage of Al Jazeera reporters was not enough due to political and legal aspects, columnist and journalist Yasser Abdel Azizi told The Cairo Post Tuesday.
“The case of Al Jazeera reporters is entangled with political and legal aspects; legally the existence of the case contradicts with freedom of expression laws; from a political aspect, Egyptians knew that Al Jazeera’s coverage of Egyptian internal affairs is a tool for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology,” Abdel-Azizi added.
Freedom of expression faces grave restrictions, but we should bear in mind that any country that faces “terrorism and regional conspiracies” like Egypt will normally take procedures that could restrict journalistic freedom, he noted.
Journalist Ibrahim Essa described Al Jazeera journalists as “ISIL militias that have no link to journalism.”
“Al Jazeera channel represents the moral affairs authority of the enemy similar to the electronic website of al-Qaeda,” Essa, who was pardoned by deposed President Hosni Mubarak over charges of insulting the president, added in his T.V program “25/30” a week ago.
“I blame all media figures for not tackling or covering the case of the detained journalists, whether they belong to Al Jazeera or to Egyptian outlets,” Abeer al-Saady, member of the Journalism Syndicate told The Cairo Post Friday.
According to the Committee of Journalist Protection, 11 journalists were killed from 1992 to 2014 and 4 others were imprisoned since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 by the army after mass protests called for the end of his regime on June 30.
Mohamed Abu Zeid’s case was also not covered enough, same goes for the Al Jazeera reporters who were sentenced to seven years in prison, Saady said. Abu Zeid, a freelance photographer, was arrested while covering the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo on August 14, 2013.
“Abu Zeid’s imprisonment is longer than the duration taken for the Al Jazeera journalists’ remandment,” Saady added. Politics destroyed media professionalism as reporters are being jailed and killed just for doing their jobs, she noted.
Some of the journalists called for staging a protest in front of the Syndicate of Journalism last Saturday in support of Al Jazeera’s jailed reporters; but nothing happened.
The protesting journalists were to wear black showing their refusal of the court’s sentence against the reporters, they announced in a statement on June 25.
“Targeting became systematic by state apparatus and attacking photographers became common practice,” the statement read, adding that security forces are seizing all opportunities to attack journalists and photographers.