Secretary of State John Kerry described as “chilling” the prison sentences that an Egyptian court gave to three journalists for Al Jazeera – a total of twenty-four years. That’s not a chill; that’s a freakin’ iceberg perched over the head of every journalist who even thinks about setting foot in the country.
Authorities arrested the three men in December, accusing them of aiding a terrorist group. That group is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was running the country just months before and now banned after a military strongman took over. Reuters supplies a detailed account of the entire story.
The three journalists, one from Australia, one from Egypt, and one with Canadian-Egyptian citizenship, had the misfortune to work for a news organization that supported the Brotherhood, which of course had its own issues.
Reviled when it first launched, Al Jazeera has gained respect for breaking news around the Middle East in places where Western reporters had no access. And as in this case, it has hired numbers of journalists from news organizations that are cutting expenses (and coverage).
According to CNN, the “evidence” presented at the journalists’ “trial” consisted of video of old news reports from other countries. World opinion will, I hope, bring about reversal on appeal, or a pardon from the strongman.