Protecting Journalists/Foreign Correspondents-It’s About Time

Freedom-of-the-press-protest-via-AFP
Freedom of the Press protest via AFP

 

What is currently happening in Egypt in my view is a very sad/violent transformation. Yet as a native of this country, I believe this to be an internal process and should be shaped only by Egyptians living in Egypt. However, what should not be accepted as an internal matter is the level of intimidation/violence against journalists/foreign correspondents-particularly foreign journalists and ones working for foreign media organisations. These are unwittingly being sucked into a political turmoil they do not control. They are seasoned professionals caught in the line of fire while doing their job. Obviously this is not a unique phenomenon as we know from similar stories of such abuse all over the world. The issue now is how to deal with this both on a short term basis and more of a medium term effort towards a lasting solution. Here is my take on this;

1) Short term: There should be a concerted effort by the UN, EU and US for the immediate release of all journalists/foreign correspondents in Egyptian prisons. This can be followed by fair/transparent legal proceedings where appropriate and one governed by internationally recognized legal standards in terms of process & evidence. The idea here is protect foreign journalists from suspect/bias legal procedures that are often used to intimidate them or achieve political ends. It should be made clear in no uncertain terms that continuing such policy is unacceptable and will not be tolerated with serious implications if these continue. We need to appreciate the conditions these people and their families are suffering on a daily basis so urgent action is necessary.

2) Medium Term: I believe there should be serious efforts within relevant international organisations headed by the UN to formulate policy/regulations that ensure appropriate levels of legal protection for journalists/foreign correspondents working in conflict zones. This is particularly the case with foreign journalists who risk their lives day-in-day-out to bring us the privilege of information close to home without much effort on our part. If diplomats have suitable levels of legal protection I am sure we can achieve appropriate standards for journalists and staff of foreign NGOs. In their words a quote from Richard Engel-NBC Foreign Correspondent;

“We are all just trouble makers. We are all just part of the same nebulous category, and the guild of professionals isn’t recognised anymore. And I think it should be. And just like you in the diplomatic community, need protection in order to be objective. If you want professionals who are also objective, we need some protection as well. So I think it’s important to pick your battles, and perhaps there should be two types of campaigns, one to protect free speech for activists who use media in order to advance their causes and their beliefs, whatever that cause may be. The other is a renewed commitment to defend dedicated and trained professionals.”

At the end of the day the intention here is not to pervert the course of justice but rather to ensure that the judicial standards/proceedings applied are ones recognised by International Law in order to protect foreign staff from political witch-hunts.

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