The conviction of Nairobi-based Aljazeera journalist Peter Greste and two of his colleagues in Egypt last week elicited international condemnation from international press and human rights organisation. Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Mohamed Bare were sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of aiding terrorists and endangering national security. Analysts see the conviction as an attempt to silence the media in Egypt as the case lacked any meaningful evidence to warrant a conviction.
Affiliation: Freelance Prison term: 5 years Charges: Anti-state Held at: Kality Prison
Reeyot Alemu was one of the first journalists arrested in a 2011 crackdown on dissent as authorities feared a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring. In January 2012, she was sentenced to 14 years in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges, but the term was reduced on appeal a few months later to five years. CPJ believes her conviction is in connection with critical columns she wrote for the leading independent weekly Feteh. Authorities threatened Reeyot with solitary confinement and she waged a hunger strike to protest restrictions on visits from family and friends. Her health has deteriorated severely in prison, but she is pursuing an international legal appeal against her conviction.
In 2013, Reeyot was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in recognition of her courage and commitment to freedom of expression. In 2012, she received the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).
Key fact: Almost 60 percent of journalists behind bars in 2013 were jailed on anti-state charges such as subversion or terrorism.
I recently wrote an article criticizing two Canadian Cabinet ministers and the absolute privilege of irreverence struck me yet again. I didn’t have to spend a week sleeping anywhere but home to avoid thugs, or worry about my family losing their jobs, or alert my friends — especially my international ones — that I feared jail and to keep the media on my case if I disappeared.