Saturday, August 29, 2015

Egypt's War on Press Freedom

Egypt’s War on Press Freedom

by Stephen Lendman

Egypt is a US-supported fascist dictatorship. Anyone challenging its authority risks imprisonment or death.

Police state injustice is official state policy. Thousands are imprisoned solely for their political beliefs.

On August 29, Al Jazeera reported on three of its journalists sentenced to three years in prison by a kangaroo Cairo court.

In June 2014, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were declared guilty of “aiding a terrorist organization” - referring to the ousted Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, coup d’etat illegitimacy replacing it.

Mohamed received six additional months imprisonment for “possession of a spent bullet casing,” said Al Jazeera. Its acting director general Mostefa Souag issued a statement, saying:

“Today's verdict defies logic and common sense. Our colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy will now have to return to prison, and Peter Greste is sentenced in absentia.”

“The whole case has been heavily politicised and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner. There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organisations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.”

“A report issued by a technical committee assigned by the court in Egypt contradicted the accusations made by the public prosecutor and stated in its report that the seized videos were not fabricated.”

“Baher, Peter and Mohamed have been sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them.”

“Today's verdict is yet another deliberate attack on press freedom. It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary; rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media they have compromised their independence for political reasons.”

Greste in Australia called the verdict “outrageous. We did nothing wrong. The court presented no evidence. For us to be convicted as terrorists is outrageous. It can only be a political verdict. This is unethical.”

The ruling is a defining characteristic of a police state. Amnesty International called the sentencing the “death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt.” AI’s Philip Luther said:

“The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt.” 

“Today's verdict must be overturned immediately. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions.” 

“We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

All three men were declared guilty by accusation. Trial proceedings were Kafkaesque. In June 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced Egypt’s crackdown on press freedom.

It said regime authorities imprisoned at least 18 journalists for their reporting. Press freedom is prohibited. Gag orders are issued on sensitive topics. Disclosing information junta officials want suppressed assures arrest and incarceration.

Targeted journalists are brutally treated - subjected to torture and isolation for extended periods. Some are abducted and disappeared - their whereabouts not disclosed to family members and counsel.

Fahmy accused Al Jazeera of placing him and his colleagues in harm’s way, lying about its legal status in Egypt, and biased reporting favoring Islamists. He’s suing for damages in a Canadian court.

His lawyer Amal Clooney said “(w)e will appeal this verdict and we hope it will be reversed. We are now going to be holding a series of meetings with government officials where we will be asking for Mr. Fahmy's immediate deportation to Canada.”

“His colleague Peter Greste was sent back to Australia. There is no reason why the same thing shouldn't happen in Mr. Fahmy’s case.”

His wife said “I ask the Canadian government to extract him from here as he is a Canadian citizen and to deport him back to Canada. All what I am asking (for) is justice and fairness, for what happened with Peter to be applied to Mohamed.”

A previous article discussed Egypt’s new anti-terror law - the latest regime tool to crush dissent, authorizing prosecution and imprisonment for the crime of 
legitimate journalism.

Reporting anything authorities want suppressed can be called a 
“terrorist crime.” Egypt banned freedom - with full US support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

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