In a dictatorship, independent journalism by default becomes a form of activism, and the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.
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.
A bullet may kill a man, but a lying camera kills a nation.
Twelve Egyptian newspapers Tuesday refused to publish and five TV stations have suspended their broadcasts in protest of the new Islamist-drawn constitution, as tens of thousands prepare for an anti-Mursi rally outside the presidential palace. The self-imposed media blackout comes one day after several Egyptian newspapers, including Al Watan and Al-Masry Al-Youm, carried a front page image showing the silhouette of a reporter in shackles behind bars under the headline: ‘A constitution that cancels rights and shackles freedoms. No to dictatorship.’
Background (via CNN):
Newspapers and television stations known for criticizing President Mohamed Morsy are falling silent Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the country’s new draft constitution and an edict the head of state issued nearly two weeks ago to expand his powers.
As Egyptians count down to a public referendum on the draft constitution to be held in less than two weeks, some newspapers disappeared from news stands Tuesday. Others printed the same protest picture of the press symbolically behind bars with the headline, “No to Dictatorship.”
Article 48 of the draft constitution ties media freedom to the framework of society and national security, which many Egyptian journalists see as vague terminology.
More: See here for a Q&A on what’s driving Egypt’s unrest.
After my identity was disclosed, it meant a lot of responsibilities. I kind of feel responsible for whatever I say on the page. I always ask myself, before every post, is that in the best interest of this country or not? I do not want to abuse a tool like this, because at the end of the day, it could lead to people dying, or it could lead to bringing the government, you know, bringing the country in the wrong direction. So it’s a lot of responsibility. I personally became more conservative than before; I calculate my steps before taking them. I truly love my country, and I think the people of Egypt deserve a much better life.