Egypt: Media Crackdown, Growing Militancy and Silencing of Dissent

I had a long interview on Democracy Now about the several different issues in Egypt. It is divided into two videos. The first focuses on the crackdown on the media:

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The second segment focusses on the third anniversary of the revolution, the potential presidential candidacy of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Morsi’s trial, growing militancy and targeting of security forces and more:

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Egypt in Year Three

My piece for The Nation coinciding with the third anniversary of the revolution:
January 25, 2011, was a transformative moment for Egypt. Thousands of protesters flooded the streets to call for the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s sclerotic regime, confronting the notorious security forces on National Police Day and sparking a mass uprising that reverberated around the world.

This year, January 25 brings with it a feeling of the revolution’s undoing. A crude monument erected by the new military-backed government stands in the center of Tahrir Square—once the epicenter of autonomous mass mobilization, now a space controlled by the state and its security forces. Three protesters this week were sentenced to two years in prison for defacing the structure. The ruling barely registered in the news.

Since the military ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi last July, followed by the brutal crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the security establishment has emerged re-empowered, reinvigorated and out for revenge, cracking down on its opponents with unprecedented severity. Much of Egypt is awash in conformist state worship, fueled by the shrill narrative of a war on terror and the age-old autocratic logic that trades rights for the promise of security.

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Harsh prison conditions taking toll on Canadian held in Egypt

Another piece for the Toronto Star on the imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy:

A Canadian journalist detained in Egypt since Dec. 29 is suffering the effects of extremely harsh prison conditions, his family says.

Mohamed Fahmy, a 40-year-old Canadian-Egyptian citizen, has been kept in solitary confinement for nearly three weeks. He is being held in a dark, insect-infested cell with no sunlight or bed, and is only allowed out for interrogation.

“The first time he saw me he didn’t recognize me for the first few seconds,” says a close family member who visited with him. “He didn’t say anything.”

Fahmy, who is being held in a maximum-security prison known as “The Scorpion,” was arrested along with two colleagues, Peter Greste, an award-winning Australian correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer. Greste has been held in slightly more favourable conditions.

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International Correspondents Call for the Release of Journalists in Egypt

I helped spearhead an effort to get representatives from international media outlets to sign a statement calling for the release of journalists detained in Egypt. The result was an impressive list of more than 50 correspondents and editors from media outlets around the world, that included some of the biggest names in the mainstream press but also smaller organizations as well.

In addition to the Al Jazeera English correspondents arrested on December 29 - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed - at least five other journalists are currently detained in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists: Metin Turkan of Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, Abdullah Al-Shamy and Mohamed Badr of Al Jazeera, Mahmoud Abdel Nabi of Rassd Online News, and freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, all of whom have been imprisoned for over five months.

The joint statement highlights concerns by the international press over media freedom in Egypt and the ability of journalists to do their work without fear of arrest.

Egypt: Journalism under siege?

I was interviewed, among other guests, on “Listening Post,” on Al Jazeera English talking about how covering the Muslim Brotherhood has become a minefield for the media:

Canadian journalist held in notorious Egypt jail in crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood

My piece for the Toronto Star on the imprisonment of three journalists from Al Jazeera English, one of whom, Mohamed Fahmy, is a good friend and longtime colleague:

A Canadian journalist detained in Egypt has been held for over a week in a dank, insect-infested cell inside a maximum security prison wing with no sunlight or bed for 24 hours a day, allowed out only for interrogation.

Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen and the acting bureau chief for the news channel Al Jazeera English, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, along with colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer.

Prosecutors ordered the three men to be held for 15 days on accusations that include spreading lies harmful to national security and joining a terrorist group. An Egyptian cameraman was also arrested the same day but subsequently released.

“The charges against the Al Jazeera journalists are completely unfounded,” says Ragia Omran, a human rights lawyer who represents Greste and has also visited Fahmy several times. “It’s part of the general crackdown on the Brotherhood, opposition activists and journalists.”

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The next day the Toronto Star penned an editorial calling on the Canadian government to push for Fahmy’s release.

The dangers journalists face in Egypt

I was honored to be on a great panel talking about the dangers journalists face in Egypt with former Al Jazeera correspondent Sherine Tadros and photojournalist Mosaab Elshamy on CBC Radio’s “The Current”

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Crackdown on Brotherhood, Opposition Grows as Egypt Joins Ranks of Most Dangerous for Journalists

My last interview on Democracy Now! in 2013, along with Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists:

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The Case of Imprisoned Al Jazeera Journalist Abdullah Al-Shamy

My piece in The Nation about one of six journalists currently behind bars in Egypt:

The Abu Zaabal prison complex lies some twenty miles northeast of Cairo, where the dense urban cacophony of the capital quickly gives way to rolling fields, rubbish-strewn canals and small clusters of hastily built red brick buildings. Outside the main gate—a pair of large metal doors flanked by Pharaonic-themed columns—sit four army tanks, their long snouts pointed up and out.

Gehad Khaled, a 20-year-old with an easy laugh and youthful intensity, has been coming to Abu Zaabal on a regular basis for nearly four months to visit her imprisoned husband. Abdullah Al-Shamy was among hundreds rounded up on August 14, the day security forces violently stormed two sit-ins in Cairo and Giza that formed the epicenter of support for the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, leaving up to 1,000 people dead.

Abdullah was at the Rabaa Al-Adeweya sit-in for work. As a correspondent for the satellite news channel Al Jazeera, the 25-year-old journalist had been stationed at the pro-Morsi encampment for six weeks, becoming a familiar face to the channel’s viewers in one of the summer’s biggest international news stories.

Gehad would visit Abdullah at the sit-in, where he was working around the clock. The two had been married in September 2012, though Abdullah spent little time at home because of regular deployments to countries like Mali, Libya, Ghana and Turkey for Al Jazeera. “The longest period we spent together since we were married was in Rabaa,” she says with a smile.

Now, Gehad sees Abdullah just once every two weeks inside Abu Zaabal, waiting hours each time for a fifteen-minute visit. She brings him food, water, clothes, newspapers, books, toiletries and other necessities to alleviate the austere conditions inside Egypt’s jails.

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As New Protest Law Looms, Egypt Faces Harsher Authoritarian Order Than the Revolution Overthrew

I did a segment from the Democracy Now! studio while on a visit to New York about the latest developments in Egypt: