"SPEAKING UP FOR THOSE WHO NO LONGER HAVE A VOICE"
"Journalists are no longer reporting from the frontline. We ARE the frontline" ~ Peter Greste
Okay let's get one thing out of the way straight off the bat. I'm angry, Really angry. In fact, 'angry' doesn't even cover it!
I was hoping - after 29 August 2015 - I would never have to write a blog about this subject ever again. Maybe a quick "Yippee!!!" blog, but that's it. I was hoping I would never have to wear my #FREEAJSTAFF hoodie or my #JournalismIsNotaCrime t-shirt again. And I was hoping I could keep my picture of gorgeous Richmond Park on my Twitter profile and not have to replace it with that damn blue and yellow banner.
But the Egyptian judiciary have done it again, haven't they?
Yesterday, I woke up and headed out for my usual Saturday Parkrun. It was slightly cloudy, but I enjoyed myself. Until I got into the cafe afterwards! I was celebrating a new PB. Then I read Twitter. My enjoyable day fell to pieces.
It was the news that none of us journalists wanted to hear. Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy had been sentenced and sent back to face the harsh conditions of Egypt's Tora Jail. Their colleague Peter Greste was convicted in absentia. And let's not forget Sue Turton and her colleagues who already were.
I couldn't believe it. I literally cried.
We knew there would be a verdict, but we - foolishly perhaps, but optimistically - believed it to be the end of nearly two years of hell for all of them. Finally, there would be a verdict, and they would be exonerated. It was to be the end of a long and cruel road they should never have been travelling in the first place.
How wrong we all were!
During my run I was thinking of all of them. Thinking that at least I have the freedom to run around a park getting fresh air and exercise. Loving the world around me. I hoped, by the time I went for my usual after-the-run cup of tea, this would be true for them too.
I was as devastated as everyone else, when I found this wasn't the case. I wanted to scream, cry (which I did), rail at everyone and everything!
This was totally, totally unjust, and so unfair. These guys did nothing wrong except BE JOURNALISTS!! How hard is it for the judiciary to understand!!?? They are not criminals, terrorists, and have NEVER done anything to threaten the stability or security of Egypt. They have become pawns in Egypt's political game and their fight with Qatar.
They can appeal, but this will take up to a year.
I am so fed up of innocent journalists being arrested, shot, beheaded, jailed and used as an easy target to get messages across. We don't need that or deserve it. We should be able to safely do our jobs.
Every time I hear of any kind of abuse against journalists, I get really upset. Two American journalists were shot in cold blood for no reason earlier this week, Also two careers, those of Peter Greste and Sue Turton have been effectively ruined. As they are charged in absentia, they are unable to travel to anywhere that has an extradition pact with Egypt. Consequently, Sue Turton has left Al Jazeera English.
I keep thinking, "Do I still want to pursue a career in professional journalism? Do I really want to risk my life by going into conflict zones or going to a country where I could possibly be the one who ends up in jail?".The answer is always the same - YES. Our job is to speak up for those who have no voice. As a professional journalist I can speak up for people like the staff of Al Jazeera English who no longer have the ability to speak for themselves.
So on it goes! The #FREEAJSTAFF campaign continues as we fight to get all the staff of Al Jazeera acquitted.
I hope we will finally see an end to this, not just for our news colleagues, but for their families too.
And next time I go for a run, and start feeling I can't go on, I will remember the AJ staff and keep running, blessed and glad to have my freedom.