Sharif Abdul Quddus writes: In Egypt, journalism can now be a form of terrorism. At least that’s what prosecutors are alleging in a case targeting Al Jazeera, with 20 defendants referred to trial on charges of joining or aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security.
Among the principal accusations, the prosecutor’s statement accuses the defendants of manipulating video footage “to produce unreal scenes to suggest abroad that the country is undergoing a civil war that portends the downfall of the state.” The statement goes on to say prosecutors assigned a team of “media experts” from the Egyptian Union for Television and Radio to inspect equipment seized from the hotel where Al Jazeera English was operating. The technical reports show that “the footage was altered and video scenes were modified using software and high-caliber editing equipment.”
So they used Final Cut Pro. They edited. They probably even selected the fiercest footage of clashes for their reports. The nature of the charges would be comical if they weren’t so serious.
The journalists accused in the case are being treated as terrorists – that is to say, inhumanely. Two of the detained Al Jazeera English staff, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, are being held in Al-Akrab, the maximum security wing of Tora prison, alongside jihadis and militants. They have been kept in solitary confinement 24-hours a day in insect-infested cells with no beds, books or sunlight for over four weeks. Following the series of bombings in Cairo on January 24, guards even took away their blankets and food their relatives had provided. After a recent visit with him, Fahmy’s family said his spirit appeared to have been broken. Peter Greste is being held in only slightly better conditions.
Meanwhile, two other Al Jazeera journalists, Abdallah al-Shami and Mohamed Badr, have been imprisoned for over five months, their lives irrevocably damaged for having reported from the site of clashes and swept up in the mass arrests of protesters. Shami has been on a hunger strike since January 21 to protest his detention.
Egypt has become one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked it the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013 and among the world’s top ten worst jailers of journalists. Aside from being killed, wounded, or arrested by security forces, reporters in Egypt are increasingly being attacked by civilians. [Continue reading…]