Indifference to evil is the enemy of good, for indifference is the enemy of everything that exalts the honor of the human person. ~ Elie Wiesel
I sat in mute disbelief as the first live tweets of the verdicts from the Egyptian courtroom appeared in my feed. Three journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven years on trumped up charges of “falsifying news” and belonging to or assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. (Baher Mohammed received three more years for apparently possessing a bullet shell). The convictions are seen as groundless and have been universally condemned as an attack on freedom of expression.
In his post, “A Journalist’s Prayer” written on the first anniversary of 9/11 Gregory Favre reminds journalists of their purpose:
Let us remember to do our best to bring light where there is darkness, truth where there is falsity, joy where there is sadness.
As I read this prayer today, I thought that since it is journalists themselves who are now under attack and are being unjustly persecuted and prevented from doing their work, the charge given in the prayer is now meant for us to take up. It is now our turn to remember and not forget the grave miscarriage of justice that has been committed and to bring light and truth where there is falsity.
We in Canada, take our freedoms for granted, but human rights do not fall from heaven fully formed but are recognized only as individuals and societies advocate, struggle, and fight to have them accepted and respected. The following cartoon from the 19th century illustrates that freedom of expression has a long history of suppression by those in positions of power who fear their lies from being exposed by the light of truth.
PD – 1923
Caricature “the naughty children”, 1849. The inscriptions read: “Freedom of the press”, “freedom of petition”, “freedom of assembly”, “freedom of speech” and “freedom of association”.
My friends, let us not be indifferent to the plight of Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. It is all too easy to ignore it and dismiss it as “Egypt’s problem”. But we all belong to one human family. If we do not work to uphold human dignity and defend the human rights of others we have no basis to claim them for ourselves. Let us bring a measure of joy into their present sadness by helping to preserve the freedoms necessary for journalists to do the important work of bringing more truth into the world.
We can do this by supporting organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists.
Do you know of other organizations in your region who are working to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right? Please share them in the comments section below and I will add them to the list.