Governments Must “Step Up and Speak Out” on Behalf of Al Jazeera Journalists

Feb 242014

In an interview on February 20, ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan said that Egypt's crackdown on civil society will continue to snowball unless governments express more outrage about the arrest of reporters there.

In a live interview on Al Jazeera English Thursday, ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan said that to secure the release of several Al Jazeera reporters arrested in Egypt, governments “have to step up and speak out.” Unless officials express outrage at the arrests and “put some teeth in it,” the country’s crackdown on civil society will continue to snowball, she said.

The interview took place on Thursday, when three Al Jazeera journalists appeared in Egyptian court on charges of abetting a terrorist group and spreading false images. Barnathan noted that the arrests are “all too familiar to our organization.” She was referring to the indictment and conviction of 43 individuals from five NGOs, including five from ICFJ, in a politically motivated case.

“We basically train journalists on how to do their job better, produce reliable news, use the new technologies, and we got slapped with a bogus case, bogus charges,” she said. “I’m not very hopeful in the Al Jazeera case if our case is any indication.”

During the NGO trial, she said, “there wasn’t enough outrage. You didn’t hear enough outrage from governments, you didn’t hear enough outrage from civil society.”

“By not registering as forcefully as possible that this is absolutely not acceptable, people think that it’s a perfectly fine way to proceed. And not only Egypt, but other governments are following suit.”