Al-Jazeera Jailings

Three facts:

  1. On June 23 I heard that three journalists, employed by the emir of Qatar through Al-Jazeera English, were sentenced to seven to ten years in Egyptian jail.
  2. Egypt’s president is currently Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi (pronounced in Arabic, his last name is eh-SEE-see).
  3. I do not clearly understand much else about this recent judicial ruling – and this last fact concerns me.

While living in Egypt, I learned the importance of finding news from multiple media organizations to cut through human bias; my professors referred to the UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and US’s National Public Radio (NPR) for fairer reporting to a Western audience. (Said one professor, “Most state-funded media becomes a propaganda machine for the government, but NPR is the media with the least prejudice in the United States!”) I am concerned because, in the reporting of the jailed journalists, I heard inflammatory, incomplete reporting from both the BBC and NPR.

In Egypt, I saw then-president Mohammed Morsi become dictator and force a non-representative constitution onto a nation. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was gaining power; after the 2013 military coup, the interim government banned MB. Against this background, I understood Al-Jazeera to sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood. The prejudice was more pronounced on Al-Jazeera Arabic than on their English channels, but Al-Jazeera English was also pro-MB.

Fast-forward to late June 2014. The first report I heard on the verdict for the three journalists suggested that they were jailed for promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. NPR’s Leila Fadel also included reactions from US senators in her report: they were outraged that the ruling contradicted El-Sisi’s declared intention to promote free speech. I initially reacted with joy to the ruling, interpreting the charge as promoting fair reporting by punishing outright prejudice – strange.

Ruminating on our reactions’ difference, I listened to news as often as possible to hear more. Listening to the BBC, I heard many reporters’ reactions to the ruling – everyone up in arms against the Egyptian courts. Again, I didn’t gain clarity on why the court gave this particular verdict; I only heard the enraged responses of Western media pundits. Only on June 30th did I find a report that analyzed some potential motivations of the court and rationale behind many people’s reactions.

I’m not satisfied with the reporting of this news, and I keep searching for a more diversified and fair answer. I lived in Egypt, took classes from Egyptian professors, learned from my Alexandrian neighbors, and researched Egyptian issues. Now, I rely on biased media organizations and Facebook updates from friends to learn of Egyptians’ experiences. I am motivated to delve into Egyptian stories. For what truths will you search?


About landje03

A passionate outdoor educator, I hold a degree in anthropology. While not a salaried academic, I pursue various thoughts stemming from my experiences and their intersections with others' experiences. I also love to start conversations, so comment if anything tickles your fancy.
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