This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Freeing Fahmy

"Canada continues to call on Egypt for the immediate and full release of Mr. Fahmy, and full co-operation to facilitate his return home."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

"Canada is disappointed with Mohamed Fahmy's conviction. This decision severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt. The government of Canada continues to call on the Egyptian government to use all the tools at its disposal to resolve Mr. Fahmy's case and allow his immediate return to Canada."
"Senior Canadian officials in Canada and in Cairo are pressing Egyptian authorities on Mr. Fahmy's case. [Canadian authorities are] advocating for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received."
Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ottawa

"Canada has consistently called for Mr. Fahmy's full and immediate release, and this is what we will continue to be doing."
Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, Troy Lylashnyk

"We're profoundly concerned about the conviction Our consular officials in Cairo have been working with great focus on this issue. We have reached out to the Egyptian government at the highest levels, and we'll continue to do so to represent the interests of Mr. Fahmy."
"In some of these consular cases, the most effective thing is not always to get out with a megaphone."
Defence Minister Jason Kenney, Ottawa, Canada

Al-Jazeera journalist Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, accused along with Egyptian Baher Mohamed of supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage for the Qatari-owned broadcaster, talks to human rights lawyer representing him, Amal Clooney during his trial in Cairo on Saturday. The court sentenced Fahmy and Mohamed, along with Australian journalist Peter Greste who was tried in absentia after his deportation early this year, to three years in prison. KHALED DESOUKI / AFP/Getty Images
Asking for the "immediate return" of Egyptian-born Mohamed Fahmy reflects what countries are supposed to do on behalf of their nationals who get in trouble abroad. Mr. Fahmy is often described as a 'Canadian' journalist. He is an Egyptian who works as a journalist abroad, and he decided to take employment with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, as its station head in Cairo, Egypt. Nice fit, that, an Egyptian working for a Qatari news source.

As an Egyptian Mr. Fahmy cannot have been ignorant of the politics involved in the Middle East. As a journalist he must have known how suspicious most Middle East countries are of Al-Jazeera's coverage. The news empire funded by oil-rich Qatar is not neutral in its reportage; it reflects the values of Qatar. And Qatar is a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, of Hamas, and it has links to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Egypt freed itself of the curse of the Muslim Brotherhood and has declared it and its offshoot Hamas terrorist groups. Egyptian authorities have their hands full, coping with the infiltration of Brotherhood Islamists within the country, and its actions in the Sinai Peninsula where Salafist Bedouin, Hamas, al-Qaeda affiliates and Islamist Jihad, along with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, are in common league with the Brotherhood.

Under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that Egyptian authorities fail to look kindly upon anyone working with and for Al-Jazeera, particularly in the critical time of dissent and violence when the presidency of Mohammed Morsi was revoked by Egyptian dissatisfaction with his disastrous year's rule and the former chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces who had warned Mr. Morsi he was on a dangerous trajectory, took formal reigns of the country, later to be elected president by popular demand.

So Mr. Fahmy, along with his co-accused, were of a certainty aware of all this background, yet they chose to pursue a story with the Qatari bias which would only enrage Egyptian authorities at a time of chaotic destabilization. And Mr. Fahmy, in a desperate ploy to be exiled from his native country, chose to divest himself of his dual citizenship, in the belief that he, like one of his colleagues, would be permitted to return to the country to which he latterly pledged loyalty as a citizen.

Peter Greste was returned to Australia, and the third co-accused, Baher Mohamed, sentenced to three years' imprisonment at this second trial, a native Egyptian like Mr. Fahmy, must remain where he is. Countries in the Middle East in particular, whether they term themselves as democracies or not, tend to be harsh on journalistic freedom. Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, China and any other countries ruled by autocrats and dictators are known as unfriendly to journalists.

The three Al-Jazeera-employed journalists defend themselves by claiming they were only doing their jobs as journalists, and given by whom they were employed their job was obviously to report the news from a particular perspective, often quite unpopular in the countries from which they do their reporting. Arguing that they're pawns in a geopolitical conflict, also argues that they might have and likely should have diagnosed the conditions under which they were employed and forecasted a likely outcome.

Mr. Fahmy is one of those Canadian citizens of passport-convenience. He arrived in Canada with his family in 1991, and after completing his journalism education, chose to exit Canada for work abroad. That the Egyptian government considers the news network for which Mr. Fahmy worked as little more than a propaganda arm of Qatar cannot have been news to Mr. Fahmy. Knowing the obvious did not deter his work as their Cairo station manager. Obviously the job had appeal for him, and obviously he decided to take any risks that came with it.

With the removal of Mohammed Morsi from the presidency and the installation of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, it should have been predictably obvious that supporters of the previous president and the party he represented would be persona non grata in Egypt. Justice Hassan Farid stated that the three English-language journalists had broadcast "false news ... with the aim of harming the country", that they imported broadcasting equipment sans approval, and without permission broadcast from their hotel.

"What I am asking for right now is Mr. Harper to intervene. It's time for him to prove that he can help and support a Canadian citizen. I believe this [verdict] is extreme injustice and extremely unfair", stated Mr. Fahmy's wife, Marwa. Well, holding Canadian citizenship does ensure that consular officials will be involved when a Canadian abroad runs into trouble. But Canadian citizens are individuals and make choices at their own discretion, not involving the government.

Canada can, and will continue with its diplomatic overtures in an attempt to have Mr. Fahmy freed of incarceration. His native country feels that one of their own behaved as a traitor to the best interests of the nation. Under circumstances such as this, there is just so much and no more that diplomacy can accomplish. But quiet diplomacy that permits each side some dignity when one or the other retreats from a position to please the other, is certainly the way to go. 

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