Freedom for journalists

Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy with familyTwo Al-Jazeera journalists jailed for disseminating ‘false news’ and aiding a terrorist group have been pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed and his Canadian colleague Mohamed Fahmy were last month sentenced to three years in prison. At least 16,000 people have been jailed in Egypt in the security crackdown following Mr Sisi’s rise to power.

It is unclear whether the pardon will be extended to their colleague, Australian Peter Greste, who was deported back to Australia in February this year.

Mr Greste told ABC he will continue fighting to clear his name.

“I am absolutely overjoyed for Fahmy and Baher. It is absolutely fantastic news and more than anything else, we have been concerned for their safety and their welfare,” he said.

“If justice is to be served then everybody who was caught up in this case, including all of us who were convicted in absentia, must have their names cleared.”

The presidential pardon came 633 days since the journalists were first arrested in 2013.

There was also good news for Australian journalist Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian. Phuket authorities recently acquitted the pair of defamation charges brought against them by the Royal Thai Navy.

Mr Morison and Ms Sidasathian faced up to seven years in prison for republishing a paragraph from a Reuters news report detailing allegations of Thai navy involvement in trafficking Rohingya asylum seekers.

On Wednesday, the Royal Thai Navy decided against appealing the court’s decision to dismiss the charges.

Mr Morison said the verdict vindicated the need to report on the plight of the Rohingya people, one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.

“I guess we derive a great deal of satisfaction from being proved right, even if it has cost us quite a bit to be true to that,” he told The Age.

Many Uniting Church members wrote letters to the Thai government as part of a Justice and International Mission unit campaign calling for the defamation charges to be dropped.

While there have been victories for reporters overseas, an Iranian journalist remains imprisoned on Manus Island detention centre.

Behrouz Boochani, a 32-year-old journalist and human rights advocate, has been detained on Manus Island for more than two years.

Mr Boochani and his friends founded the Kurdish magazine Werya, which focuses on minority rights and preserving Kurdish culture. After Iranian armed forces ransacked his office and arrested 11 of his colleagues, Mr Boochani fled Iran and sought asylum in Australia.

According to former PEN Melbourne president Arnold Zable, Mr Boochani’s communications are regularly monitored by Transfield, who operates the detention centre.

PEN International, a worldwide association of writers from more than 100 countries, recently launched an international campaign urging the Australian government to process Mr Boochani’s asylum claim. The campaign is supported by a range of international human rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders.

You can join their letter-writing campaign here.
Photo obtained from d.parvaz via Twitter.

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