“This case is about freedom of speech”: Journalists under siege

Source: David Degner / Macleans Magazine

Source: David Degner / Macleans Magazine

After 433 days since his arrest, Mohamed Fahmy is still very clear about the significance of his ordeal.

This case is about freedom of speech,” Mohamed said in an editorial in the Globe and Mail, discussing the politicized nature of his case and the conflicts between the Egyptian government and his former employer, Al Jazeera English.

And, with yesterday’s launch of the Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press, there’s no doubt that Mohamed is truly dedicated to supporting the cause of imprisoned journalists around the world.

Too many journalists are being wrongly thrown into prison, effectively silencing their voices,” Mohamed said Thursday, calling attention to the plight of Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan Zeid, currently incarcerated for 500+ days without trial.

As we move towards the retrial hearing on Sunday (March 8), we’re continuing to call loudly for action from the Canadian government to stand up for free speech and ensure Mohamed’s safe return to Canada.

Media coverage:

Posted in ACTIVISM

Launch of Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press

IVzD-2ft_400x400Today, Mohamed Fahmy announced the launch of the Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press.

Intended to provide support and advocacy for imprisoned journalists worldwide, the Fahmy Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Canada.

Too many journalists are being wrongly thrown into prison, effectively silencing their voices,” said Fahmy in a press release. “Hundreds of support letters lifted my morale in prison yet equally important was the money donated from honourable people and media defence organizations alike. Only then, was I able to pay the majority of my legal fees. Our mission is to give back, advocate for and financially support imprisoned journalists and their families.”

Building on the momentum of Mohamed’s ongoing retrial in Egypt, the Fahmy Foundation is highlighting the plight of others in similar situations.

The Foundation’s first case is that of 27-year old Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud (Shawkan) Abou Zeid who was arrested in Cairo in August 2013 and is still awaiting trial.

“I have already raised his case with the head of Egypt’s journalism syndicate and have met with his brother. Shawkan remains in a small cell with 12 other prisoners and faces bogus charges just like me. He suffers severe anemia and his family has submitted several requests to Egypt’s chief prosecutor requesting a pardon based on health grounds,” said Fahmy from Cairo.

“Shawkan has seven years of professional experience and is highly respected by the Egyptian photojournalist community. Our Foundation will advocate vigorously for his release and will continue to meet with his family should they require financial assistance should he face a trial.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

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What has #HarperCallEgypt accomplished so far?

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It’s been just over three weeks since we launched the #HarperCallEgypt campaign. What have we been able to accomplish so far?

WEEK ONE:

WEEK TWO:

WEEK THREE:

In just three weeks, we’ve made incredible progress. But we’re not stopping until Mohamed is safely home in Canada. 

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We need Action NOW, not more promises

mohamed-fahmyAfter 429 days since his arrest, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy deserves more than empty promises. 

This weekend, Egyptian President el-Sisi stated in an interview that he would issue a presidential pardon for Mohamed and his colleagues, but only after the current retrial was completed.

In an interview with CBC News, Mohamed noted that this type of rhetoric from el-Sisi is not new.

“He has claimed he would pardon us at least three times in the past year, at the UNGA (UN General Assembly) in November in Davos and several other occasions,” Mohamed said.

As we mentioned previously, el-Sisi’s statement indicates that his government is aware of the international attention on this case, and that he is feeling pressure.

But empty promises are not enough. And waiting for the retrial to continue indefinitely is not an option.

After 429 days, Mohamed and his colleagues deserve justice and freedom.

And we need YOUR HELP to ensure that the Canadian government does its part to ensure Mohamed’s safe return home to Canada. 

HOW TO HELP:

1. Tweet your support!   Use the hashtag #HarperCallEgypt

Sample tweets:

Isn’t it time that @pmharper do something to help Mohamed Fahmy? #HarperCallEgypt NOW  (click here to tweet!)

Mohamed Fahmy has spent over 400 days in prison just for being a journalist. Canada, we need to get him home. #HarperCallEgypt NOW    (click here to tweet!)

Because #journalismisnotacrime – @pmharper needs to #HarperCallEgypt NOW & ask for Mohamed Fahmy’s release immediately #freeAJStaff    (click here to tweet!)

2. Sign the Petition!

Join 50,000 others  (& share the petition widely with your contacts!)

3. Tell Prime Minister Harper to call Egypt! 

EMAIL: stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Sample email (copy & paste)

FAX: 613-941-6900

Sample fax (copy & paste)          

CALL: 613.992.4211 

Leave this message:

“I am a supporter of Mohamed Fahmy. He is a Canadian citizen, and a journalist, and though he has committed no crime, he is set to go to retrial onFebruary 23. I urge Prime Minister Harper to contact President el-Sisi immediately and request that Mr. Fahmy’s deportation order be honoured so that he can return safely home to Canada right away.”

(Of course, please remember to remain polite and respectful!)

Media coverage:

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Concern over Canada’s lack of action continues to grow

mohamed-fahmy

Lawyer Amal Clooney’s public statement made global headlines this week as concern for Mohamed Fahmy’s case continues to grow.

Major news outlets around the world carried the story, quoting Clooney’s critique of Canada’s “woefully inadequate” efforts to advocate on Mohamed’s behalf. Articles and comments of support for Mohamed circulated widely on Twitter.

Screen shot 2015-02-28 at 9.48.33 PMAs international concern for Mohamed’s case continues to grow, today the Egyptian government indicated that they are aware of the scrutiny.

In an interview with a London-based newspaper, President el-Sisi of Egypt promised to invoke a presidential pardon for Mohamed and his colleagues.

However, this pardon would only be carried out after the judicial process and retrial was completed.

“We are in a country respecting the judiciary and I can’t interfere to release them until the final verdict,” said el-Sisi.

While this quote indicates that President el-Sisi is aware of the international attention focused on this case, we are concerned that this option is not enough to secure Mohamed’s freedom.

We are continuing to urge the Canadian government to work with the Egyptian government NOW to ensure Mohamed’s safe return to Canada. 

Media coverage (selected)

Posted in ACTIVISM

Government action on Fahmy case “woefully inadequate”: Clooney

Composite image: CBC News

Composite image: CBC News

In a strongly worded statement today, Amal Clooney (Mohamed’s lawyer) criticized the Canadian government’s lack of advocacy for her client.

After detailing the unjust arrest, trial, and current retrial of her client, Clooney argued that Canada’s response was absolutely ineffective.

“…[W]hat did Canado do? It published a short written statement by a junior minister…Such sheepish whimpers are woefully inadequate when it comes to enforcing an agreement reached with a sovereign state regarding a citizen’s release from detention.

Canada should now begin real advocacy to ensure that Egypt honours its agreement to release Mr Fahmy from Egypt. There is no legal impediment to his immediate transfer to Canada. Yet calls from Canadian society and politicians for Prime Minister Harper to pick up the phone to personally intervene in the case have so far fallen on deaf ears.” [emphasis added]

Yesterday, Canada’s NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar issued a strongly worded statement, urging Stephen Harper to intervene personally.

“Despite action by other heads of government, Prime Minister Harper still refuses to pick up the phone to call President al-Sisi, and no representative of the Prime Minister’s Office has contacted Mr. Fahmy directly. This failure is inexplicable and inexcusable.” [Statement; emphasis added]

As we continue with the campaign to bring Mohamed safely home, citizens and politicians are continuing to show their active support of Mohamed’s case. NDP MP Peggy Nash tweeted her support.

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MP Kirsty Duncan (Liberal) raised Mohamed’s case in Question Period this week.

And today, the Documentary Organization of Canada (representing over 600 independent documentary filmmakers in Canada) sent a letter to Prime Minister Harper expressing their concern about the case.

As a country which is known as one of the leading democracies in the world, Canada must be seen to stand for freedom of speech…It is part of our social, moral and cultural fabric.

We look to you [Prime Minister Harper] for strong leadership supporting these ideals by securing the immediate repatriation of Mr. Fahmy. (Documentary Organization of Canada)

As always, we’re continuing to wait for confirmation of action from the Prime Minister’s Office. And we’re not stopping our campaign until Mohamed is safely home in Canada.

Media Coverage:

  • CBC NewsAmal Clooney wants Stephen Harper to ‘pick up the phone‘ “
  • Globe and Mail “Harper pushes for discussion with Egyptian President
  • CBC  “Stephen Harper, Mohamed Fahmy and the Unmade Phone Call
  • Huffington Post (Amal Clooney editorial)

 

Posted in ACTIVISM

Canada’s Leader of the Opposition goes to bat for Mohamed Fahmy

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.06 PMToday, Canada’s Official Opposition Leader, Thomas Mulcair (NDP), used his first question in Question Period to ask Prime Minister Harper directly: “Has the Prime Minister…spoken directly and personally to President el-Sisi to ask that Mr. Fahmy be returned to Canada?

Prime Minister Harper responded, stating that “…the government has…called for Mr. Fahmy’s release…this has been raised at all levels, including my level, by the Government of Canada.”

Mr. Mulcair was not satisfied with this response. “We asked a clear question and [Mr. Fahmy’s] family deserves a clear answer,” Mr. Mulcair said, pressing Mr. Harper to confirm or deny that a phone conversation had occurred.

After Prime Minister Harper continued to evade the question, Mr. Mulcair summed up the response: “So, it’s a ‘no’.

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 9.11.23 PM

This level of support and discussion is extremely important, emphasizing the incredible amount of concern surrounding Mohamed’s case in Canada.

In recent days, other notable individuals have joined the call for Mohamed’s freedom. Iconic Canadian musician Raffi Cavoukian tweeted his support for the #HarperCallEgypt campaign.

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 10.02.46 PM

On Monday, founder of Farahway Global and a Centre for Social Innovation “Agent of Change” Farah Mawani published a powerful editorial in the Huffington Post that drew more than 1000 “likes” in less than a day.

And Iranian-British actor Nazanin Boniadi (star of Homeland and Scandal) also tweeted her support for the campaign. 

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 9.29.45 PM

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