I am nervous as I write this. I am in my cold prison cell after my first official exercise session â four glorious hours in the grass yard behind our block and I donât want that right to be snatched away.
Iâve been locked in my cell 24 hours a day for the past 10 days, allowed out only for visits to the prosecutor for questioning, so the chance for a walk in the weak winter sunshine is precious.
So too are the books on history, Arabic and fiction that my neighbors have passed to me, and the pad and pen I now write with.
I want to cling to these tiny joys and avoid anything that might move the prison authorities to punitively withdraw them. I want to protect them almost as much as I want my freedom back.
Peter Greste, A letter from Tora prison.
The News, via ABC (Australia):
Australian journalist Peter Greste will be detained in solitary confinement in Egypt for at least another 15 days.
Greste was arrested in Cairo in late December along with two [Al Jazeera] colleagues, bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed.
Egyptian authorities are accusing the crew of holding illegal meetings with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist group by the military-installed government.
However, the trio says it was merely reporting all sides of the story.
As Greste writes, “The three of us have been accused of collaborating with a terrorist organization [The Muslim Brotherhood], of hosting MB meetings in our hotel rooms, of using unlicensed equipments to deliberately broadcast false information to further their aims and defame and discredit the Egyptian state. The state has presented no evidence to support the allegations, and we have not been formally charged with any crime. But the prosecutor general has just extended our initial 15-day detention by another 15 days to give investigators more time to find something. He can do this indefinitely – one of my prison mates has been behind bars for 6 months without a single charge.”
Hassan El-Laithy, Egypt’s ambassador to Australia, says the detention isn’t personal. Instead, it’s aimed at Al Jazeera as a news organization.
“It has nothing to do with Peter Greste as a person, definitely,” El-Laithy told ABC. “But it is whether those working for a specific television station are abiding by the laws of that specific host country or not.”
Small solace, we imagine, for Greste and his colleagues.
We heard horrific stories of American female journalists being attacked during the Egyptian revolution in 2011. There are many other cases we did not hear about because the victims are not Western. They don’t have the same access and publicity; they may not be as comfortable talking openly about an issue that’s considered private and sensitive in some cultures, or they may worry that any frank discussion could portray them as weak and incapable of braving the dangers of field journalism.
I couldn’t work for another newspaper. I can only work for a paper where I can write objectively. I can’t write that in the last 20 years, it’s all been so wonderful in our country because I know it’s not true. Saying everything’s just great. Kissing officials’ backsides. I won’t do that, not so I can earn $500 or $600 a month. I’d rather earn less but tell the truth.
Journalist Zhanara Kasymbekova in The Fight to Publish, a film about Kazakhstan’s only mass-produced opposition paper.
(via Al Jazeera)
After Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, a system of double standards was created. To the outside world, the language of democracy is used to attract foreign investors. On the inside, journalists must navigate the dangerous realities of imprisonment, fines, interrogations by secret police, and raids of editorial offices. In two decades of independence, not a single murdered journalist’s case has been solved. Ostrovsky’s film follows journalist Zhanara, Staff reporter as the Golos Respubliki newspaper, as she covers stories from her base in Almaty - and when breaking news of the riots in Zhanaozen takes her to the aftermath of the bloodiest day in Kazakhstan’s modern history.
The Respublika newspaper did not come out of this frightening period unscathed. The editorial staff were threatened when the beheaded corpse of a dog was hung outside the newspaper’s window. It turned out that this was only a prelude to the arson of our editorial office, which was burned to the ground. At the same time, our editor-in-chief, Irina Petrushova, was charged with tax evasion and forced to flee the country. By 2009, the newspaper had been forced to shut down by one of its creditors, the government-controlled BTA bank. But despite all the pressure, the newspaper reopened under the new name it uses today: Golos Respubliki.
FJP: A wake-up call to the realities faced by journalists around the world. Zhanara has to fight to cover news objectively, risking her life in the process.
Watch the film. 25 minutes, worth it.