Egypt Jails Al-Jazeera Journalists

 

Over the weekend, an Egyptian court sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to three years in prison. One of them, Peter Greste, an Australian citizen, is back in Australia and was sentenced in absentia. One of the others, Mohamed Fahmy, is a Canadian citizen.

The charges against them are directly related to their journalistic activities, including not having proper licensing and reporting false news damaging to public security. I believe these charges were motivated by Al-Jazeera’s reporting that was favorable toward the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian President El-Sisi has said he favors deporting rather than jailing the foreigners, but will not interfere with the courts.

According to article 155 of the 2014 Egypt constitution, the president of the republic may issue a pardon or reduce a sentence after consultation with the cabinet. The article reads: “General amnesty may only be granted by virtue of a law, ratified by the majority of the members of the House of Representatives”.

Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the lower chamber after ruling it was not constitutionally elected. In regards to deportation, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued in 2014 a presidential decree that allows foreign nationals to continue their pretrial detention or post-trial prison sentences in their home countries.

[…]

In June 2014 … El-Sisi said that Egypt’s authorities “will not interfere in judicial matters” following the first trial where the defendants were sentenced to between seven and ten years in jail. El-Sisi also said he did not wish to see the foreign journalists prosecuted through a criminal process, and would have preferred for them to have been deported.

The Canadian government is working diplomatically to have Fahmy returned to Canada (he is being represented by Amal Clooney, George’s wife). There is added political pressure on these diplomatic efforts due Canada’s ongoing federal election.

The British ambassador took a more direct approach, saying — in Arabic and on local Egyptian media — that he is “concerned that today’s ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad.

I understand that support for Islamist groups comes from — or gets funneled through its home in Doha — and Al-Jazeera is sometimes used to spread agitprop for Islamist causes. However, I’m a strong believer in a free press and don’t think these journalists should be jailed.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Fred Cole:

    drlorentz:At the very least, open your mind to the possibility that the presumption implicit in your statement may be wrong. This is not to assert that they can never learn, just that the practice period last several generations, which makes it of scant relevance to our own foreign policy decisions. In the meantime, they can cause lots of harm to others. In short, let them learn on their own nickel.

    I never said practice wouldn’t take several generations. I’m certain it would. It’s a complex thing, it doesn’t happen over night.

    However, I reject your assertion that that it’s of scant relevance to our foreign policy decisions. That’s the kind of valueless shortsightedness that’s led us to the current situation.

    Furthermore, you have not addressed my larger point: “The proposition that democracy can work in any culture is unproven.” What evidence do you have in support of this proposition? It’s more along the lines of wishful thinking.

    • #31
  2. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    iWe:

    Step 1: Destroy radical Islam.

    Step 2: Promote liberty and freedom

    Step 3: Try democracy.

    These steps may not all be handled by the same government or type of government. But right now, Sisi is the only guy in the Middle East seriously trying to achieve Step 1.

    This is a sound prescription. It may work out or not. The key word is try. Not everything that is tried succeeds.

    • #32
  3. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    drlorentz:Furthermore, you have not addressed my larger point: “The proposition that democracy can work in any culture is unproven.” What evidence do you have in support of this proposition? It’s more along the lines of wishful thinking.

    Can you give me an example of a cultural practice that would make a society unfit to choose its own leaders?

    • #33
  4. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Fred Cole:

    drlorentz:Furthermore, you have not addressed my larger point: “The proposition that democracy can work in any culture is unproven.” What evidence do you have in support of this proposition? It’s more along the lines of wishful thinking.

    Can you give me an example of a cultural practice that would make a society unfit to choose its own leaders?

    The burden of proof is on him who asserts the proposition. You have assumed something to be true without evidence.

    To your question, radical Islam may be such a cultural practice since a theocracy is not a democracy, by definition. Why is it so hard to believe that cultural values may be in conflict with democratic values? The values of Western, liberal democracy are values. Other people may have other values.

    • #34
  5. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    iWe: So in that sense, he is our SOB.

    I’m not so sure about that. My impression of El-Sisi is that he wants Egypt to be in a leadership role in the Arab world and the army in a leadership role in Egypt, sort of like a new Nasser. If those goals align better with engaging with Russia or China, I wouldn’t expect him to prefer the US.

    • #35
  6. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Fred Cole: So no freedom until radical Islam is destroyed. (However “destroyed” is defined.)

    Not “no freedom”. Just not prioritizing the freedom of, for example, journalists. Economic freedom in Egypt may well be higher than it was under MB.

    You apply that just to Egypt? Or does it go for other countries? What about the United States? Would you accept the suppression of freedoms in the US (say, freedom of speech) until radical Islam is destroyed?

    The US is not facing termination from internal radical Islam. Egypt is.  But if the US were at similar risk, of course wartime measures tend to suppress freedoms.

    • #36
  7. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Fred Cole:So what you’re saying is that they were bad at the whole democracy thing. To which I’ll certainly agree. They were bad at the constitutional government thing. I’ll agree with that too.

    Democracy takes practice. Constoutional government takes practice. The MB government was elected with a small majority. They tried to govern like they won in a landslide. But they didn’t know to moderate their behavior because they’re bad at democracy.

    Fred,

    I think it’s time we stopped the straw man of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood. I think Obama’s CIA put Morsi in power and manipulated the election. Of course, like Hitler, that was the last election that Egypt would ever see. Morsi purged the army and the judiciary. I think Egypt stands a better chance of getting another shot at democracy with Sisi. Aside from the fact that the Jihadist brotherhood would be murdering Christians, Gays, and any Muslim who didn’t see it their way, they’d also put Egyptian women back 500 years.

    I don’t think we need any more sympathy for Morsi.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #37
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Among the reasons why Erdogan is still in power in Turkey is that he knows exactly how to skirt the boundary of acceptable behavior in such a way that the generals won’t overthrow him as they have when his predecessors got dangerous.

    Well, no — he learned from that the importance of putting the generals in jail before they jailed him. And by that point, it was unnecessary: the generals were not planning to depose him and I doubt they would have done so under any circumstances.

    • #38
  9. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    James Gawron:I don’t think we need any more sympathy for Morsi.

    I have zero sympathy for Morsi.  He was a terrible president.

    My sympathy lies with democracy and the right of people to elect their own leaders.

    • #39
  10. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    drlorentz:To your question, radical Islam may be such a cultural practice since a theocracy is not a democracy, by definition. Why is it so hard to believe that cultural values may be in conflict with democratic values? The values of Western, liberal democracy are values. Other people may have other values.

    Okay, but the people of Egypt aren’t all radical Islamists.  So what about Egypt makes it unsuited to democracy?

    • #40
  11. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Fred Cole:

    drlorentz:To your question, radical Islam may be such a cultural practice since a theocracy is not a democracy, by definition. Why is it so hard to believe that cultural values may be in conflict with democratic values? The values of Western, liberal democracy are values. Other people may have other values.

    Okay, but the people of Egypt aren’t all radical Islamists. So what about Egypt makes it unsuited to democracy?

    That’s quite a straw man you’ve erected! It’s hardly necessary for all Egyptians to be radical Islamists, just enough to get the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood elected. I might add that someone can be elected without commanding a majority of public support. It’s also unclear that you can have a true democratic state without the underlying values of liberty such as those embodied in the Bill of Rights. These elements are not present in Egypt. The fairness of the election is not beyond dispute; candidates were disqualified, etc.

    I’ll turn the question back on you: what about Egypt makes it suited to democracy? For the second or third time, I remind you that you’ve the burden since you’re making the assertions. Previously, you’d relied upon the assumption that all cultures are suited to democracy. You seem to have conceded the point with ‘okay’ above. Now it’s time to marshal evidence for your views.

    It’s hard to stand on your shifting sands.

    • #41
  12. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Among the reasons why Erdogan is still in power in Turkey is that he knows exactly how to skirt the boundary of acceptable behavior in such a way that the generals won’t overthrow him as they have when his predecessors got dangerous.

    Well, no — he learned from that the importance of putting the generals in jail before they jailed him. And by that point, it was unnecessary: the generals were not planning to depose him and I doubt they would have done so under any circumstances.

    I stand corrected.

    • #42
  13. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Fred Cole:

    James Gawron:I don’t think we need any more sympathy for Morsi.

    I have zero sympathy for Morsi. He was a terrible president.

    My sympathy lies with democracy and the right of people to elect their own leaders.

    A phony election does not a democracy make. Wishful thinking is involved in believing that the Muslim Brotherhood was ever interested in democracy. The moment they took power they immediately showed that absolute dictatorial control was their end. I am also sure that American intelligence directed from the White House was involved. Don’t you remember the Libya fiasco. I’m not referring to Ben Ghazi but the White House unilaterally destroying the Qaddafi regime for no gain whatsoever. Wishful thinking that the Arab Spring had anything to do with democracy. Saddam Hussein was a real threat. Qaddafi was no threat at all as was Mubarak.

    Obama is the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Too bad none of this can be blamed on George Bush.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #43
  14. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    James Gawron:   A phony election does not a democracy make.

    Okay, do you have evidence that “Obama’s CIA” rigged the election?

    • #44
  15. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Fred Cole:

    James Gawron: A phony election does not a democracy make.

    Okay, do you have evidence that “Obama’s CIA” rigged the election?

    Mubarak could never have been overthrown without a little help from former friends (nobody’s friend). That within a year Morsi managed to wreck every institution that would have supported democracy should give you a hint. How can you assert the idiocy that tyrannical rule by the Muslim Brotherhood constituted a legitimate democracy. What lunatic thinks that Jihadists care about democracy or would ever accept rule by a democracy. They explicitly insist on theocratic dictatorship every time they are given the chance to express themselves.

    Why is there anything to discuss and discuss and discuss…..

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #45
  16. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Okay, so your evidence is … ?

    • #46
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    In the Middle East we generally seem to preach one thing but practice another. Perhaps that’s why many people there think we’re not trustworthy?

    • #47
  18. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Fred Cole:Okay, so your evidence is … ?

    So your claim is….  that the Morsi election was the will of the people without outside interference. You’re the one who has been claiming that a pure democratic election was overturned for umteen comments. Do you have any actual evidence that it was a pure democratic election? Don’t you remember the White House announcing that Mubarak had to go. Quite a turn around from the 2009-2010 White House that let the Greens twist slowly in the breeze in Tehran. Gosh, why didn’t the White House announce that the Mullahs had to go?

    Well, of course, if you are a Jihadist sympathizer then it all fits doesn’t it. Even letting a U.S. Ambassador die to cover up your fantastic incompetence/psychosis. It wasn’t Al Qaeda in Libya it was a video. Nah, probably it was all George Bush’s fault.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #48
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    drlorentz:

    …what about Egypt makes it suited to democracy?

    It has people in it, and the people seem to want liberty. Otherwise there would be no demand for democracy at all, but there is.

    Wrt the values embodied in the Bill of Rights – why was it necessary to tack these amendments onto the Constitution?  If they had been agreed upon values, common assumptions if you will, the amendments would not have been necessary.

    The values supporting the West’s democracy have improved over time – and have improved because of the democratic process.

    Insisting that Middle Eastern countries improve their respect for individual liberty before engaging in the democratic process is not just putting the cart before the horse, it’s hypocritical.  We’re asking something from them that we didn’t demand from ourselves – and while that might convince half the choir at home, it doesn’t convince anybody in the audience.

    • #49
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Gawron:

    So your claim is…. that the Morsi election was the will of the people without outside interference.

    He did win, Jim, however impurely.  I wish that the people’s will had been other, but it wasn’t.  A lot of them even voted for Salafists that make the MB look squishy.

    Don’t you remember the White House announcing that Mubarak had to go.

    Only after weeks of protests and when it became clear that keeping him in power would be too expensive.  Till then they supported him.

    I think it’s a matter of value for money – at some point one needs to cut one’s losses.

    Quite a turn around from the 2009-2010 White House that let the Greens twist slowly in the breeze in Tehran. Gosh, why didn’t the White House announce that the Mullahs had to go?

    Egypt has been bought and paid for – what the US says about Governments there carried real weight.  Mubarak was their guy, and they were cutting him loose.

    Making similar pronouncements about Iran would just reveal lack of influence – iow the opposite of speaking quietly and carrying a big stick.

    To spell it out: Mubarak needed US support to stay in power, the Mullahs in Iran do not.

    • #50
  21. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Zafar,

    He did win, Jim, however impurely.

    Please Zafar, you can win by killing all the people running against you. I don’t think you’ve presented a viable model of democracy.

    Only after weeks of protests and when it became clear that keeping him in power would be too expensive.  Till then they supported him.

    Weeks of protests?!!!! They had a few million people in the streets of Tehran protesting for over 6 months. Barack the Magic Dragon did absolutely nothing. Couldn’t bring himself to even use the bully pulpit. This against a regime that since 1979 has held government mass rallies to the tune of “Death to America”.

    To spell it out: Mubarak needed US support to stay in power, the Mullahs in Iran do not.

    The White House had to wait for just the right moment to stab Mubarak in the back and you know it. In Tehran, for at least six months the Mullahs could have been brought down by a single speech by the American President. They were hanging by a thread. It was a conscious choice not to do it. We are seeing the intent of that choice play out in this absurd pseudo-deal. This lunacy anoints the Mullahs as masters Iran and masters of the Middle East.

    The stupidity of the whole thing is just overwhelming.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #51
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Gawron:In Tehran, for at least six months the Mullahs could have been brought down by a single speech by the American President.

    Fantasy.

    • #52
  23. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Zafar:

    James Gawron:In Tehran, for at least six months the Mullahs could have been brought down by a single speech by the American President.

    Fantasy.

    Zafar,

    No reality! The Arab Spring was pure fantasy. The Iranian people don’t wan’t the Mullahs. We had a real chance and we blew it. Now we have the ultimate fantasy, co-existing with the Mullahs. The Israelis don’t believe it, no kidding. The Egyptians don’t believe it. The Saudis don’t believe it. Even Erdogan’s Turkey doesn’t believe it. Throw in some nice missiles and maybe finally the lame Europeans won’t believe it. I would say the odds right now are in favor of a short nuclear war. I don’t know where or how or when it will start but it seems the most likely outcome.

    If you listened to Reagan’s Star Wars speech you would have said fantasy too. I did at the time. However, not long after the speech the Soviets cracked and collapsed. That’s what should have happened to the Mullahs.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #53
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Jim

    I don’t agree with you on many things, but I always appreciate your civility – it’s something I will try and emulate.

    Regards

    Zafar

    • #54
  25. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Zafar:Jim

    I don’t agree with you on many things, but I always appreciate your civility – it’s something I will try and emulate.

    Regards

    Zafar

    Z,

    Have a nice evening.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #55
  26. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Fred Cole:But instead of giving democracy a chance to work itself out, for people to learn how it works and adapt their behavior, instead there was a coup.

    And what does everyone learn from this? That if you’re a Muslim fundamentalistthere’s no point in even trying democracy, because you’ll end up dead.

    I don’t think they ended up dead because they tried democracy. More like they ended up dead because they were trying to destroy the democracy they used to get into power.

    • #56
  27. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Fred Cole:

    Tenacious D:For the moment, with the army keeping a firm lid on things, Egypt is better off than many of its neighbours like Libya and Yemen. However in the long run, I worry that the crack down on the MB (and these journalists were at worst sympathizers) will create a whole new generation of Sayyid Qutb-like martyrs.

    Are they better off in the short term?

    They’re facing a serious ISIS insurgency in the Sinai and beyond. Is it better that Sisi overthrew the democratically government? Would a Muslim Brotherhood have greater legitimacy to fight an ISIS insurgency? If those jihadist insurgents had a way to express their values through the political system instead of through car bombs, would they use it? Would a democratic political system act as a release valve for those people?

    We don’t and can’t know the answers to those questions, because their democratically elected government was overthrown.

    Would a Muslim Brotherhood government even bother to fight ISIS? They’re both cut out of more or less the same cloth. Both groups are made up of radical Islamist nut-jobs out to destroy the West.

    • #57
  28. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Fred Cole:

    iWe:If Sisi can succeed in promoting a non-radical version of Islam, then freedom can evolve, over time. Freedom – not democracy – is the essence of what makes America great.

    What part of freedom evolving involves jailing journalists? Is that a step in the process?

    Yeah. The step is called surviving long enough to have those multiple generations needed for the Muslim world to learn to behave like civilized people. Fail this step, and the barbarians smother the civilization in its cradle.

    • #58
  29. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Fred Cole:

    drlorentz:Furthermore, you have not addressed my larger point: “The proposition that democracy can work in any culture is unproven.” What evidence do you have in support of this proposition? It’s more along the lines of wishful thinking.

    Can you give me an example of a cultural practice that would make a society unfit to choose its own leaders?

    Violent, xenophobic, bigotry? I certainly wouldn’t want such a culture running a neighboring country. Would you?

    • #59
  30. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Fred Cole:

    James Gawron:I don’t think we need any more sympathy for Morsi.

    I have zero sympathy for Morsi. He was a terrible president.

    My sympathy lies with democracy and the right of people to elect their own leaders.

    Yeah. One man, one vote – one time.

    • #60
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