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Listening Post

Caged in Cairo: Where journalism is a crime

Al Jazeera staff sentenced to jail in Egypt #FreeAJStaff.

Last updated: 29 Jun 2014 13:02
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After 177 days of incarceration in Egypt, the three Al Jazeera English journalists went to court to hear the verdict in their case. Just the week before Al Jazeera Arab journalist, Abdullah al-Shami had been released so hopes were high for an acquittal. Instead the journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were all sentenced to seven years in prison for, according to the court, ‘spreading false news’ and ‘aiding or joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood’. Baher Mohamed received an extra three years for having a used bullet casing in his possession at the time of his arrest.

The sentences provoked condemnation from Al Jazeera and news organisations around the world however the sentiment was not reflected in Egyptian media. Some mainstream news outlets in the country applauded the verdict, echoing a wider view of Al Jazeera - a network that had a central role in covering the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square – as having fallen from grace over a perceived bias in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown on press freedom has paralleled a larger security operation to quell dissent; hundreds of Egyptians have disappeared, some 40 thousand have been arrested. These are the kind of stories that risk going untold with Egyptian journalists either parroting the government’s national security narrative or facing the consequences.

In this week’s Newsbytes: Sixteen major news organisations have gone to an American court to demand the release of video footage showing the force-feeding of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. In Turkey, the government has banned the media from reporting on ISIL's kidnapping of 49 people from its consulate in Mosul, Iraq. And in the UK the jury has ruled on the now defunct News of the World phone hacking trial but Rupert Murdoch’s remaining publications have put a different spin on the story.

Headlines and sensationalism have long gone hand in hand, but ‘clickbait’ has taken this to another level. Articles that promise to ‘blow your mind’ or ‘change your life’ are all attempts to get you to click on the link, increase online traffic and therefore make the publication more appealing to advertisers. Websites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed may have started the trend however they are not the only culprits. Serious news sites are joining in but not always with the desired outcome. Listening Post’s Will Yong reports.

Our web video of the week showcases the touching display of solidarity over the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt. 24 hours after the verdict, news outlets across the globe - including our direct competitors – posted videos and images of vigils from their newsrooms protesting a judgment that is seen as a politically motivated attack on journalism in Egypt. The #FreeAJstaff campaign has been re-tweeted more than 100,00 times, by people who care.

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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Al Jazeera
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