The Safety of Al Jazeera English Journalists in Egypt

Andrea Baker


The imprisonment of Al Jazeera English (AJE) journalists (Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian national Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed) in Egypt between 2013 and 2015 reflected the recent ten agenda items of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) about the safety of journalists (Pöyhtäri & Berger, 2015). Building on the relevance of press theories (Siebert, Peterson, & Schramm, 1956; Curran, 2002) as well as developmental and peace journalism (Carpentier, 2007 cited in Cammaerts & Carpentier, 2007) as a theoretical basis, this paper examines the twenty-one month reportage of the AJE case by public broadcasters such as AJE, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). It assesses whether the UNESCO’s Safety of Journalist agenda was covered. A “mixed method” (Kolmer, 2008), quantitative and qualitative content analysis research design, was used. Four hundred and ninety-five articles from the three broadcasters’ coverage were analyzed in two stages which overall began from the day  (December 29, 2013) of arrest of the AJE trio until a week after Fahmy’s and Mohamed’s final release (September 30, 2015). The analysis found that items noted in the UNESCO’s Safety of Journalists’ agenda were not overtly spelt out in the coverage by the broadcasters but cloaked under a wider press freedom framework that hung over the case. Findings also reflected the critical need to address the safety of journalists in Egypt and other parts of Africa, despite the democratic awaking of the 2011 Arab Spring.

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