Two Reuters journalists have been jailed in Myanmar for investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims – an act that has been criticised by Theresa May, the US and other countries.
Baher Mohamed, an Al Jazeera journalist who was jailed in Egypt for reporting on the military overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, tells Sky News the world should work together to protect those reporting the news.
The jailing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar for carrying papers on the Rohingya massacre is another stab in the back for journalists.
They were sentenced to seven years in jail for doing their job. It was really heart-breaking to see.
I know exactly how they feel, after they went in front of a judge, knowing they did nothing wrong and suddenly being in jail and being surrounded by the walls of a cell.
Those two brave journalists will be sitting in their cells thinking ‘what have we done wrong?’
I know they are strong and they have it in their hearts that they did this for press freedom, I’m sure they know that every single journalist across the world is speaking about them and fighting for them, but it’s hard for them; it’s also hard for their families and for their parents.
But this is not an isolated case.
While journalists are free to do their job professionally in some places, the number of places where they are able to do this is shrinking.
Others reporting the truth to people all over the world are being thrown in jail.
And, if the authorities can’t jail them, they harass them. Journalists are being harassed everywhere.
The number of journalists being jailed or attacked is increasing and people are not doing enough.
In Egypt, where I was jailed, we have Shawkan (Mahmoud Abdel Shakour) and Mahmoud Hussein among many others.
Shawkan has been in jail for five years and Al Jazeera’s own Hussein for more than 600 days, but there are others being jailed and harassed in countries across the globe.
I worry that nobody’s paying attention and people are forgetting about them.
Those who are putting journalists behind bars are able to move freely between countries and are being praised and welcomed by other world leaders who are doing nothing, and that’s really horrifying.
Journalists take these kinds of risks, sometimes risking everything, because they believe in the truth, because they believe that without journalism, there would be no democracy. It would be dark.
It is because of that, I believe, even after this latest jailing, journalists will still take any chance they can to work in places like Egypt. They will do their best. If there is a story out there, you, me, any of us, would go, would risk everything for the truth.
It is weird to report about journalists; we should not be the story, we should be reporting the story.
But, the idea that journalists will be afraid to do their job and report from places like Egypt and Myanmar, I don’t think so.
The number of journalists reporting on their colleagues today, proves they will risk anything to report the truth and show solidarity.
Journalists will continue to take the initiative, will go to risky places, just to report the truth, and that will continue, but journalists need protection; journalists are being attacked, journalists are being the target and that is absolutely scary.
If we all work together to report on journalists behind bars I think that will force states to fear jailing or harassing journalists.
And it is needed. We live in a world where the president of the United States uses language like “fake news” to describe the work of the national news networks.
Language like that is encouraging countries like Egypt to draft laws to criminalise professional media, to criminalise free media, to put anyone who wants to speak freely behind bars.
This rhetoric by the US president is encouraging every dictator to jail journalists, not only activists, not only those who are fighting for the environment or press freedom or any important cause, and that’s happening not only in Egypt, but across the world.
We’re not doing enough to help journalists and we should do something.
What got me, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste out of jail in Egypt was the solidarity among journalists and human rights and press freedom activists working together.
The campaign that led to our release was one of the most successful examples of journalists from different networks and different languages all standing together. All to stand up for three journalists they didn’t know. That was great to see and we need to continue this, to build on this.
Today, many other journalists have been reporting on the jailing of the two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, and talking about it, but we need to do more.
Al Jazeera, Sky News, the BBC, and journalists everywhere need to stand together to fight for their colleagues who have been jailed, to get them out.
Heads of state, governments, they all need to stand together for press freedom.
It’s time to act, to ask the UN to act, because it matters; the sacrifice that journalists make to bring people truth, the time we do not spend with our families because we are in jail, we do it to bring people democracy.
We journalists and everyone should stand together, to force everyone to know that jailing journalists is a crime, harassing journalists is a crime. Journalism is not a crime.