I guess most of us have already read in the news that Peter Greste, one of the Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt has been released. Baher Mohamed, a producer, and the channel’s Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, who were working on the same stories are still being held. The three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested, falsely accused, shabbily tried and unjustly imprisoned for aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood political party. Two were sentenced to 7 years and one to 10 years imprisonment in a case that has drawn wide spread criticisms of the Egyptian Government and prompted the worldwide social media protest #FreeAJStaff.
As usual, I’m not here to just spill out the news but to give some analysis.
Peter Gretse was released after spending 400 days in prison while his colleagues are still being held in an Egyptian prison.
Of course Peter and his family are happy to have him back and so is Al Jazeera but all parties have stated that they won’t rest or give up their campaign until his other colleagues are released.
My interest in this story is: What does Peter’s release say about Egypt’s Justice system and Human Rights clime?
Some people are of the opinion that it is a step in the right direction. I beg to differ.
Why was Peter really released?
Peter is an Australian and the law of Egypt says that a foreign ‘criminal’ can be deported to his home country under certain circumstances. So, it was easy to apply that to grant Peter a release.
However, that isn’t even the main reason he was released. Despite him being a foreigner, he could have still been left in jail if Al Jazeera had not launched a protest which immediately caught fire and drew a lot of negative attention and condemnation to Egypt. Obviously, Egypt was more concerned about their image and the negative publicity the case was bringing, hence decided to let Peter go after 400 days! Remember that they didn’t actually declare Peter not guilty, they only let him go.
Okay, let’s now examine this: Why Peter and not his other colleagues?
Quite simple. His other colleagues are Egyptians. One is a Canadian- Egyptian who has recently gotten a permission from an Egyptian court to renounce his Egyptian citizenship. Once he does this, he might be released. Also, he is not being declared not guilty of the cooked up charges, Egypt is just finding a way to let him go and kill the bad publicity.
Peter’s second colleague, Mohammed Fammy is an Egyptian and I’ve not heard anything concerning his release except that Al Jazeera has vowed to keep up the pressure until he is released.
So, concerning Egypt’s human rights clime as regards freedom of speech and information, I still maintain that nothing is being done. It is still deplorable. If not, why has only Peter being released? And what about the hundreds of Egyptians arrested during the crackdown against the Brotherhood. What has happened or is happening to them? They are probably languishing in prison because they don’t have ‘Al Jazeera’ to champion the fight for their release.
Written by Olisa Lotenna