- QNetNews.ca - http://www.qnetnews.ca -

Locals react to Al Jazeera sentencing

By Mark Hodgins

The jailing of an Egyptian-Canadian journalist has the local chapter of Amnesty International outraged and poised to fight back.

Connie Gallupe, Chairperson for Amnesty International group 111 in Belleville, told QNet News via email that Amnesty has already put into motion responses to what she called “a ferocious attack on media freedom.”

In what many consider a travesty, an Egyptian judge sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to jail time, including 7 years for Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy. The decision has sparked international outrage and garnered responses from human rights agencies worldwide.

Nationwide, Amnesty International Canada has launched a service for Canadians to write through them to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, as well as an “…online petition to Egyptian Minister of Justice Nayer Abdel-Moneim Othman calling on the Egyptian authorities to release Mohamed Famy and his Al Jazeera colleagues immediately and unconditionally,” said Gallupe. The petition has over 6500 signatures.

Locally, Gallupe said there are other options for Belleville residents. “Our group takes part in urgent letter writing action once a month at Belleville Public Library.  We will be certainly be including an action to Egypt, demanding the release of these journalists and advocating for freedom of expression.” The next meeting is July 8th.

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression also condemned the verdict. They plan to lobby the Canadian government, as well as give citizens the opportunity to write to Foreign Affairs minister John Baird.

CJFE international programs assistant Alexandra Zakreski says this decision could prove dangerous for the future.

“… This verdict sets an extremely dangerous precedent for other journalists working in Egypt (both local journalists and international ones) who pursue balanced, objective and ethical reporting on the political landscape in Egypt,” said Zakreski.

Though she does not see a direct impact on Canadian journalists as a result, Zakreski feels this will result in “…Canadian journalists being afraid to report in Egypt for fear of suffering a similar fate.”

Kathleen Bazkur, Dean of Media, Arts and Design at Loyalist College in Belleville, said she finds the entire ordeal “unsettling.”

As a professional who trains young journalists, Bazkur feels that “students should be deeply troubled, but heartened by the international outrage,” and work being done by the Canadian government.

“A journalist’s role is to kick rocks and search for the truth,” said Bazkur, and she hopes this ruling does not scare journalists away from doing their work.