Al Jazeera, Other Journalists on Trial in Egypt for Allegedly Supporting Muslim Brotherhood: Can't Intertwine Media and the State

Free press always under fire


France 24

The trial in Egypt of 20 journalists, including nine from Al Jazeera, on charges of allegedly aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false information about unrest in the country, was adjourned until March. Eight of the journalists have been detained since at least December, and one, Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste, penned a letter on the poor conditions at the prison he and others are being held.  Al Jazeera reports on Greste  and two other detained journalists who are with Al Jazeera English:

Since their arrest, journalists have staged protests worldwide demanding their release, and rejecting claims the three have links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's former ruling party which has since been designated a "terrorist" group.

The case is one of many that have led to criticism of Egypt's military-backed government, with rights groups pointing to growing intolerance for dissent in the Arab world's most populous country.

"Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"The prosecution of these journalists for speaking with Muslim Brotherhood members, coming after the prosecution of protesters and academics, shows how fast the space for dissent in Egypt is evaporating."

Voice of America adds:

Many Egyptians and the pro-government media suspect foreign journalists of unfair coverage of the political upheaval in Egypt, but special anger is reserved for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel that is widely seen as backing the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Qatar's rulers support the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ex-president Mohamed Morsi, and Egypt's interim government has criticized Qatari leaders for giving safe haven to Muslim Brotherhood members.

Voice of America is essentially a broadcast arm of the U.S. government, and has been accused of working against the government or supporting the opposition in places like Cuba and Ethiopia. In 2001, it won an ethics award for running an interview with Mullah Omar which it was pressured not to by the feds, but that was followed up by a restructuring to create VOA outlets that would be easier to manipulate politically, a move opposed by hundreds of VOA journalists.

Journalists at both VOA and Al Jazeera, and at places like the BBC and euronews, as well as at outlets not owned, operated or affiliated with governments, are generally interested in the practice of journalism. The intertwining of the state and the media, however, is detrimental to a free press not just in a place like Egypt, where most media is state owned and the government appears in a total war against a free press, but also when governments, be they the U.S., the U.K. or Qatar, subsidize international media operations. Once the government is involved in media, the involvement will only grow. Even as Voice of America, the BBC, or Al Jazeera remain broadly trusted by their significant viewerships, the governments backing them move to crack down on a free press. The U.S. dropped 13 places in the most recent press freedom rankings, the U.K., like Egypt, is conflating journalism and terrorism, and in Qatar there is little of any free press. It's ranked 133rd on the Reporter Without Borders index that dropped the U.S. to 45th and placed the U.K. at 33rd. Egypt is at 159 out of 180.

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  1. At what point do you stop being a reporter and start being a paid mouth piece for the regime? If there was some kind of national truth and reconciliation commission for the Obama years, could anyone truthfully call someone like Rachel Maddow or Pauli Krugnuts or Sad Beard, journalists?

    No one calls Murat a journalist or considers him somehow independent of the French Revolutionary government. And perhaps I am a bit cynical, but I doubt if these people were just being reporters rather than political propagandists, anyone would be interested in prosecuting them.

  2. John, I know I’ve gone at you pretty hard in the past, but for the most part, you are a pretty thoughtful poster, albeit one who can’t spell for shit.

    What I can’t figure out is whether your post here is essentially taking the Egyptian government at their work that the AJE guys are Muslim Brotherhood, or if I’m just misreading things. If you ARE, then my goodness, you have just reinforced every criticism of you here when it comes to anything related to Islam. It’s as if your last name is Bolton.

    I’m willing to hear a more thorough explanation, but your last paragraph essentially puts the AJE people on a similar level to Krugnuts politically, except against the regime. That’s…frightening.

    1. Bah…”at their word” not “work”

  3. I’m still quite pleased to see those assholes hunted down in the streets. Live by the Statist State, die by the Statitist State

  4. Maybe reporters should just do reporting, not propaganda?

    I’m under no illusion that Voice of America does reporting. I imagine if “reporters” from it were caught in some Soviet company where there was an uprising, that they would be arrested as instigators.

    The world would be a better place if the government didn’t fund the media. They are incestuous enough when they don’t actually sign the paychecks.

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