An international group of journalists gathered in front of the Egyptian Embassy in London yesterday to show solidarity for journalists who have been detained, injured or killed in Egypt.
The demonstrators urged Egyptian authorities to respect the rights of journalists to work in a safe environment. They demanded to release Al Jazeera reporter Abdullah Al Shami and Al Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Bader, who have been detained in Egypt for more than three months without facing any formal charges.
Al Shami, 25, was arrested while covering demonstrations in Cairo’s Rabaa Square on the 14th of August.
Bader, 28, was arrested for possessing a camera while covering the Ramses Square clashes on the 16th of August. He got transferred to the Tura prison for further interrogation. His detention has been renewed constantly ever since. Badar’s wife gave birth to their first child while he was in detention.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Aljazeera Media Network organised the collective protest, which is part of a greater international campaign, to send the message that protection for journalism is protection for freedom.
President of the IFJ, Jim Boumelha, read a letter addressed to the Egyptian ambassador Ashrad El Kholy: “We urge the interim Egyptian Government to charge them formally and put them [Aldullah al-Shami and Mohammed Badr] for a fair, transparent and non-political trial or to release them immediately.”
Since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi by the army in early July, there has been an increasing hostility towards journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation that promotes the freedom of information and press, at least 80 journalists have been arrested and five killed since the military coup.
The Egyptian interim government has also shut down several television stations, and raided offices of Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian TV channel, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr. The security forces accuse Al Jazeera, a Qatar based broadcaster, of operating without a legal basis, misinformation and fabrication of stories. The news organisation denies all charges.
According to former Research Director at Chatham House, Rosemary Hollis, “Al Jazeera is identified as the mouthpiece of its owner the Qatari government and the Qatari government was a big supporter of President Morsi (and the Muslim Brotherhood).”
But Manager Communication and International Relations at Al Jazeera Network, Ghassan Abussein, responded: “Al Jazeera is not biased, we are just showing both sides of the story. Our job is to broadcast all shades of opinion”. He explained that it is not just Al Jazeera or local journalists that suffer. “Any media that supports the freedom of speech or shows what is really going on on the ground, is affected.”
The Egyptian ambassador accepted the letter offered by the protestors but refused to comment.