Al Jazeera: On the Cusp of Eternal Serfdom
By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 28 June 2014
On Monday 23 June 2014, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed from Al Jazeera English of Qatar, were convicted on charges of collaborating with terrorists in the Egyptian Torah Mahkoum Prison court in Cairo and sentenced to seven and ten years in jail respectively.
As expected, Al Jazeera's condemnation of the verdict was swift:
- Al Anstey, Managing Director of Al Jazeera English - 23 June 2014: said, "The verdicts defied logic, sense, and any semblance of justice. Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. Guilty of covering stories with great skill and integrity. Guilty of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world. Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them. At no point during the long drawn out trial did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny. There is only one sensible outcome now - for the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognised by Egypt."
As were others who also expressed their disapproval:
- Ralph King, Australia’s ambassador to Egypt - 23 June 2014: said, "On the basis of the evidence that we've seen, we can't understand the verdict. We will make our feelings clear to the Egyptian government and we will continue to provide all possible consular assistance."
While the UK's Telegraph sought to keep a tab on the days' responses:
- Julie Bishop, Australia's Foreign Minister: said, "she was shocked and deeply concerned by the verdict in the Greste case and urged Egypt to end its efforts to muzzle the media. We are deeply dismayed by the fact that a sentence has been imposed and we are appalled by the severity of it. It is hard to credit that the court in this case could have reached this conclusion. The Australian government simply cannot understand it based on the evidence that was presented in the case. Mr Greste was in Egypt to report on the political situation and was not there to support the Muslim Brotherhood. Australian officials will contact Egyptian government officials to request intervention. This kind of verdict does nothing to support Egypt’s claim to be on a transition to democracy. The Australian government urges the new government of Egypt to reflect on what message is being sent to the world about the situation in Egypt."
- William Hague, UK's Foreign Secretary: said, "Egypt should review unacceptable sentences against Egyptian and international journalists and show commitment to freedom of the press."
- James Watt, UK ambassador to Egypt: said, "This is a deeply disappointing result. The Egyptian people have expressed over the past three years their wish for Egypt to be a democracy. Without freedom of the press there is no foundation for democracy."
- John Kerry, US Secretary of State: described the verdict as, "chilling and draconian" and said he had called the Egyptian authorities to register America's "serious displeasure" with the ruling.
- Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International: said, "This is a devastating verdict for the men and their families, and a dark day for media freedom in Egypt, when journalists are being locked up and branded criminals or terrorists simply for doing their job."
While the majority of MSM responses condemned the Egyptian judiciary, there were some who claimed that Egypt was simply punishing Qatar for their support of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood while others said that the verdict was a consequence of a proxy war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All of which is partially true but not, in itself, enough to justify the Wests inactivity in the affair.
So, what is really happening here?
The west is clearly being disingenuous in their condemnation of the judgement as they have, in reality, done very little to secure the captives release. After all, there is nothing to be gained in supporting a free, adversarial and investigative media organisation that has overshadowed their own MSM:
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - 2 March 2011 said, "Al Jazeera has been the leader in that they are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective. In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."
Furthermore, western regimes are obviously not interested in doing anything that may jeopardise their control of the MSM who have purposely been de-funded and successfully neutered over the years. The fact that Al Jazeera, Russia Today and China International are challenging the western MSM status quo is simply a factor of budgets: the former are travelling rapidly north while the latter are in a self-destructive tailspin heading south.
Of the three, it is Al Jazeera who has picked up the baton of adversarial investigative journalism from the west and been successfully running with it for quite a few years, much to the chagrin of not just the West, but even the East.
And there you have it, judicial malpractice, support for the Muslim Brotherhood and proxy wars aside, western regimes are not interested in these trifling issues but have a very clear remit of their own. It's called interests: influence, power, control and money.
In other words, you guys over there in Al Jazeera are doing a great job but don't expect any constructive help from us. Of course, if you should need our assistance we would be happy to oblige but you will have to join our partnership programme first. The programme rules are quite simple; 1. You can do or say, on any medium, whatever you like only if we say you can, 2. We will need to place a few of our people in middle and senior management positions in your company to help you meet your commitments under rule 1, and 3. our corporatists will want a stake in the business and a seat on the board. If you sign up today we think we could get your people out of there in less than a month.
- Cursed are the weak and poor whose only salvation is serfdom.