Any journalist worth their salt understands the risks that go along with investigative reporting. Any journalist who doesn’t report on a journalist receiving the death sentence isn’t entitled to call themselves journalists.
It’s a headlining article for any paper, yet the media hardly allocate the story to anything but a sideline column. The sheer nature and context of the Al Jazeera’s news editor, Egyptian Ibrahim Hilal and Jordanian news producer Alaa Sablan, amongst 4 others, receiving a death sentence handed down in absentia, should alert and anger journalists worldwide.
“This is a black day in the history of journalism,” said Al Jazeera’s director Yasser Abu Helala on the news website.
Australian based journalist Peter Greste, who also worked for Al Jazeera was arrested in 2012, but was released in February 2015 after negotiations between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Egyptian representatives. His charges were that of broadcasting “false” news, which harmed Egypt and promoted the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Greste’s Al Jazeera colleagues Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed are currently serving a 3-year sentence for supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood, with Foreign Correspondent Greste still considered a criminal, after verdicts were handed down last September in another absentia trial.
“This is a black day in the history of journalism.”
Greste said at the time of the sentencing that Egypt needs to be held accountable for how they treat journalists. “So we need also to call on international pressure, on governments and diplomats around the world, to make it clear to Egypt that it cannot make these kinds of judgments.
“The fact is this is wrong, this is unjust, this is unethical, this is immoral on so many levels [and] it cannot be allowed to stand.
“It [Egypt] cannot be allowed to get away with this,” Greste stated at the time.
In the latest case involving Al Jazeera journalists, the charges have striking similarities with treason added to the list.
According to the Egyptian court handing down the death penalty, the six defendants are guilty of passing national security documents to Qatar in a case involving deposed and first democratically elected Islamist Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi was ousted by the military in 2013, following only 12 months in office, and is also facing the death penalty. However, according to a spokesman for Al Jazeera, Associated Press was told that the allegations made are “absurd.”
Other accusations against the journalists, who also include Asmaa al-Khateib who worked for the media outlet Rasd, are the “airing news” of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations, which favor militant Islamic groups.
The other three defendants are documentary producer Ahmed Afify, academic Ahmed Ismail and an EgyptAir cabin crew member Mohammed Keilany.
Although the verdict is not final, and has to await the mufti’s opinion, the six will receive the final sentence June 18.