29 Dec 2014

Keeping jailed journalists in the public eye with gaffer tape

Fact is, I came to this campaign a bit late. Thousands of others were posting up pictures of gaffer-taped mouths and holding up little handwritten placards saying “Free Al Jazeera Staff” before I had even heard about it.

Well, late to the party, I just decided to hang in there. The way I see it is that the sheer monotonous drip-drip of my mug, plus gaffer from wherever life may take me, helps somehow to keep Baher, Mohamed and Peter in the public eye to a little extent. Or I’d like to think so.

Rather more seriously, all we can hope for is that the process moves forward quickly from the off on 1 January in Egypt when the appeal process begins in earnest. There is perhaps some hope in the recent comments from the political leadership in Cairo, and I don’t doubt that superhuman efforts have been going on for months behind the scenes.

My little protest has attracted a good deal of predictable whataboutery. To which I say, of course there are many other journalists in similar- and even worse – circumstances just for doing their jobs.

All of them deserve our support and effective campaigning. But a broad, scattergun approach is going to do nothing but diminish the effect. Far better to have different support groups carrying out hopefully effective, targeted campaigns in a world which seems to get ever more dangerous for journalists.


All governments have problems with all media organisations – or I would hope they do. This is normal, healthy, desirable. No doubt Cairo has grievances with Al Jazeera and its journalism – but victimising individuals for doing their jobs honestly, diligently and in good faith is absolutely not the way to smooth out these problems.

It is time constructively to address those problems with dialogue, having released Baher, Mohamed and Peter to get on with their grotesquely interrupted lives.

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