Al Jazeera English, which has its European base in London, has been making headlines itself with the release of its journalists from a prison in Egypt. Tara Mearsheimer interviews ‘Amir’ a journalist who has worked for the station. Subbing: Qiwei Wang
“Suspicion is everywhere these days in Egypt,” Amir explains in a serious tone, “state media scaremongering fuels suspicion on the Egyptian streets.” Employed by the news organisation, Al Jazeera English, as well as being Egyptian, he has experienced what many journalists in the country endure just to provide the world with a story.
“Foreigner journalists have a hard time these days because of media conspiracy theories about foreign intervention,” says Amir. “If you are Egyptian or Arab you would sometimes be threatened and get asked if you’re from Al Jazeera.”
This month Al Jazeera reporter Peter Greste was deported from Egypt after being held behind bars for over 400 days. He was arrested in December of 2013 under the suspicion of spreading false news and being part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Filming throughout the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, for his own safety, he never spoke about working for a news organisation, especially Al Jazeera. “If I get my camera out and start filming in the middle of the street people will come up to me and ask me what I’m doing, who I’m working for, where I’m from. Sometimes they’ll go so far as to ask to see if I’ve got government approval to film in the middle of a public street.”
He says he once had his camera taken away from him by authorities and was told to never film again. Amir also still has to take caution when posting information on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, due to authorities monitoring what journalists post on the internet.
Two other journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy among many others are still being held in jail based on the same accusations. “The real tragedy is for Baher Mohamed, who has no foreign citizenship, and for the other Egyptian journalists in jail who have no ticket out,” he says in a stern voice. He continues to address the fact that what got Greste out of Egypt was the year-long media campaign that highlighted his case.
“What it would take to get Fahmy, Mohamed, and Egyptian journalists out would be a similar campaign for them. Sadly the international community is more interested in the life and freedom of Western journalists than they are of Egyptian journalists, so this campaign will not be forthcoming. The release of Greste is not a turning point, it is merely the continuation of international policies that value the lives of Westerners above those from the global south.”
With President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in office since 2014, things have changed for the country. Amir finds it very surprising it is that Greste was in prison for so long, “In the Mubarak era, foreigners always got preferential treatment and imprisoning a Western journalist like this for 400 days would be unheard of.”
He strongly believes that the international community needs to insist on the protection of journalists, not just those with Western passports.
The name of the journalist in this story has been changed.