Journalism is not a crime!

I can’t imagine anything scarier than being jailed or killed for simply practicing your profession.  And yet, this is a reality that many journalists face.  In fact, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists,   some 221 journalists were imprisoned in 2014.

However, despite these numbers, the trials of three Al Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt in 2013 on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood has captivated the world.  Journalists Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed were subsequently convicted on charges of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, spreading false news and endangering national security.  In January, 2015, they successfully appealed the June 2014 conviction and on February 13, 2015 the three men were released on bail, pending a new trial.

This trial, which was reported under #AJtrial, was arguably one of the hottest stories of the day.  @reportedly, in my opinion, did an excellent job of bringing their audience in on the action.  One of the downsides of trials, irrespective of the region in which they are held, is that proceedings are generally not open to the public.  Even in places like the United States, cameras and similar types of media are not always allowed in a courtroom.  Even more challenging, those reporting on a trial typically are not allowed to comment on the trial as it is taking place.  These are just a few of the reasons the live-tweeting of the #AJstaff trial was excellent.

@reportedly literally brought its followers into the courtroom, with extensive minute-by-minute reporting on what was taking place.  I joined the conversation as one journalist was wondering whether or not mobile devices would be allowed in the courtroom. Seconds later, we got our answer. The reporters tweeted out photos of the journalists enclosed in cages

Fahmy & Mohamed enclosed in cage.  From @reportedly.
Fahmy & Mohamed enclosed in cage. From @reportedly.

the moment when Fahmy was called to the stand

Fahmy being called to stand.  From @reportedly.
Fahmy being called to stand.
From @reportedly.

,and when Fahmy unfurled an Egyptian flag.

Fahmy holding up Egyptian flag. From @reportedly.
Fahmy holding up Egyptian flag.
From @reportedly.

Assuming the only tools the @reportedly’s journalist had at their disposal was a cell phone and their brain, I think they did an excellent job of using these tools.  I also think social media was extremely important in how this story played out.  There are several hundred journalists in prison across the globe,  yet this particular story received tremendous attention.  The eyes of the world were literally on this story.  It was nearly impossible for the Egyptian Judiciary to sweep this case under the rug.


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