In the wake of the arrest and detainment of Al Jazeera English staff in Egypt, the media world has ignited with the notion of freedom of expression and worldwide campaigns ‘journalism is not a crime’ and ‘#freeAJstaff’ have circulated on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Al Jazeera English foreign correspondent and Australian journalist Peter Greste, along with producers Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, have been imprisoned in Egypt since their arrest on 29 December 2013. The three journalists have been accused of spreading ‘false news’ harmful to state security and aiding and abetting the banned terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood. The imprisoned staff and broadcaster have denied all charges.
Peter Greste and his colleagues have been deprived of their liberty for attempting to uncover the truth and fulfil their roles as journalists. Every year journalists, photojournalists and media workers are killed, imprisoned, attacked, kidnapped or censored just for doing their jobs. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 99 journalists and media workers worldwide were killed in 2013 and this year, 2014, 23 journalists and media workers have been killed. Equally, 211 journalists were imprisoned globally at the end of last year.
Non-for-profit organisations such as CPJ, aim to promote press freedom worldwide and defend the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. World Press Freedom Day is celebrated globally on May 3rd, aiming to ‘celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.’
Journalism and foreign correspondence carry great dangers when it comes to reporting from war torn countries. The pursuit to expose the atrocities committed by countries to their own people can be a fatal career yet regardless; journalists have the right to do their job.
‘Journalism is not a crime. Journalism is not terrorism. Journalism is an important cornerstone of freedom.’