Global Campaign to Free Al-Jazeera Journalists: but how unbiased is the network?

“East Africa Journalists protest against Egypt’s crackdown on journalists” – Al Jazeera News

#FreeAJstaff – a new viral campaign has launched where journalists from around the world are tweeting in support of Al Jazeera journalists currently being held in Cairo. Many held protests outside Egyptian embassies on Tuesday across the globe. On the same day the White House also came out in support of the jailed reporters, “We have strongly urged the government to drop these charges and release those journalists and academics who have been detained,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman said.

Al Jazeera staff have been accused of falsifying news and manipulating pictures in support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded upon the ideas of Hassan al-Banna the Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational political and religious social movement. The Islamist group began in Egypt in the 1920s and was a strong presence following the Arab Spring in 2011. However, since the fall of Mohamed Morsi the Muslim Brotherhood has been labelled a terrorist organisation in Egypt. Like other Islamist groups they believe that the Qu’ran and Sharia law sets the example for governments to follow and that these governments must unite to form a global caliphate. All though recently speaking out against the use of violence, the group has been linked with many radical Islamists and the Egyptian authorities hold them responsible for countless criminal acts. Following a violent crackdown on the group; which saw hundreds of deaths, there has been a sustained campaign from Morsi supporters in the Egyptian Capital.

It is this protest that Al Jazeera was covering prior to the arrests of 20 staff members in Egypt last winter. Among the journalists are 3 jailed British reporters who have been held for 40 days now and a further 2 who are wanted back in the UK. The Arabic journalist Abdullah al-Shami who has been held for 170 days is also on hunger strike, lasting for 17 days now amidst accusations of torture. Human Rights advocates are marking this as an escalation in the Egyptian Military regime’s campaign against any who speak out in opposition. The underlying message is that the work of these journalists equates to terrorism. A pretty chilling indictment that many are obviously fighting hard against.

But in all this, public outcry it is perhaps pertinent to consider the links between Al- Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood. There are many who would say the Arab network has done little to hide its sympathy for the Islamist group. Hiring long time member Yusuf Al Qaradawi as their chief religious presenter and airing the (now proved to be fake) death of a Muslim Brotherhood protestor on the streets of Cairo are just some of the examples that reveal the network’s bias. Host nation and financial backer Qatar has even stronger links with the Muslim Brotherhood as long term political allies. Tony Blair has come out in support of the Egyptian regime, speaking out against the banned Islamist group: “the fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress“. He has a point; not only did the Egyptian army respond to the desires of the people by deposing Morsi but now they are standing up against what is a potentially dangerous Islamist network. The current actions of the Egyptian army against international journalists is deplorable and is doing more to darken Egypt’s global profile than any Al Jazeera news coverage could. We are left to wonder yet again who will lead Egypt into a brighter future.