There’s a Canadian journalist in prison in Cairo and he’s due to go on trial on Thursday. So far, there’s been no public condemnation of his detention from Ottawa. I deliberately say ‘Canadian, as opposed to ‘Egyptian-Canadian’ on the grounds that all dual citizens (like myself) would like to feel that the government would be on our side should there be a knock on the door at night.
Globe & Mail Mohamed Fahmy, 39, and two of his colleagues from Al Jazeera English were arrested in late December, apparently victims of the political upheaval in Egypt. The interim military-supported government
thinks knows that Al Jazeera’s coverage is biased toward former president Mohamed Morsi’s fundamentalist supporters. (al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold)
The three journalists have been charged with being members of the (recently declared terrorist group) Muslim Brotherhood, and with providing support to the Brotherhood through their reporting. The military government has accused the three, along with several other colleagues, of “airing false news aimed at informing the outside world that the country was witnessing a civil war.”
There have been heartening calls for the journalists’ release from many corners, including Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists and filmmaker John Greyson, who was also imprisoned in Egypt and freed after pressure from the Canadian government. Even Barack Obama has spoken out against the charges through his spokesman, Jay Carney.
The Australian government is lobbying for the release of Mr. Fahmy’s co-accused, Peter Greste. So that leaves Ottawa in bewildering silence. Is Mr. Fahmy, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, seen as “not Canadian enough?” I can only surmise, and the vacuum offers few answers. (No, he’s seen as aiding and abetting the enemy)
When asked if he’d like more support from Ottawa, Adel Fahmy said, “We would definitely like it. It would have an impact, in my opinion. But I’m in no position to criticize or ask why it hasn’t happened.” But another supporter in Cairo, who asked not to be named for security reasons, is more blunt: “Why have they been silent? We need more support from the Canadian government.”
As Cambridge University political scientist Hazem Kandil wrote in the London Review of Books this week, “What Egypt has become three years after its once-inspiring revolt is a police state more vigorous than anything we have seen since Nasser … those who refuse to toe the line must be ostracized and those who persist punished as traitors.” (Nasser successfully kept the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in their place – politically impotent and/or in jail or out of Egypt)