The Al Jazeera network is a Qatari-owned news broadcasting channel based in Doha, Qatar. Recently, the network has been making headlines themselves due to the fact that five of its journalists are being detained in Egypt. These journalists, along with an additional 15 whose names were released on a charge sheet by Egyptian police, are accused of depicting Egypt of “being in a state of civil war” as well as charges of reporting false news, according to the Associated Foreign Press.
Sixteen of the 20 charged journalists are Egyptians and four are foreigners. These include Australian Peter Greste, the East African correspondent for Al Jazeera, British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes. Greste, along with Canadian Egyptian acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, was arrested on Dec. 29, 2013 during a raid of the hotel suites they were occupying. They join another journalist, Egyptian Mohammed Badr, who has been detained since August, despite never being formally charged.
Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed are all being charged with reporting false news, using illegal equipment and being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization in the eyes of the Egyptian government, according to CBC News.
According to the Associated Foreign Press, if convicted, the foreigners could face up to seven years in prison, while the Egyptians could face up to 15. Netjes was forced to flee Egypt in order to escape arrest, and considers herself “on run from the Egyptian law,” according to the Associated Press.
When news of the detained Al Jazeera correspondents broke, journalists across the globe banded together to show their support. They are campaigning for the release of the correspondents through the use of social media.
Reporters in various locations, such as the U.K., Kenya and the United States, are posting pictures of themselves with adhesive tape covering their mouths and holding a sign saying, “#freeAJstaff.” According to The Guardian, the intense protests by journalists all over the world have proven to have some effect. On Feb. 5, it was reported that Peter Greste was moved to a lower security prison and is now being held in the same cell as his colleagues Fahmy and Mohamed.
In addition to their social media campaign, more than 50 foreign news correspondents across the globe signed a petition asking for “an end to the arbitrary imprisonment of their Al Jazeera colleagues,” according to The Guardian. Turton, a senior correspondent with Al Jazeera English, said that she and her colleagues at Al Jazeera are very careful about how they practice journalism.
According to Turton’s interview with The Guardian, “We are careful at Al Jazeera not to label anyone a terrorist. After all, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” She said that journalists, especially those reporting in the Middle East, work their hardest to respect the customs of the countries they report in. Despite the correspondents’ efforts, the Egyptian government still feels offended by the words of the Al Jazeera network, according to the Guardian.
Editor’s Note: Information from The Guardian, CBC and the Associated Foreign Press was used in this report.