Mohamed Fahmy at the CJFE event on Oct. 13.

Photo: Badri Murali

Mohamed Fahmy: ‘If we believe in a free press … we need to defend it’

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By Farnia Fekri

Mohamed Fahmy, a former Al Jazeera journalist imprisoned in Egypt for almost two years until his pardon on Sept. 23, was at Ryerson on Tuesday in his first public appearance since his return to Canada.

He began by thanking the organizations and people who helped support the campaign to bring him home.

“If you ever doubt that these campaigns make a difference, I’m living proof that they do,” he said.

Addressing the media in the Rogers Communication Centre as part of a Canadian Journalists for Free Expression event, Fahmy said he hopes to start a foundation to fight for the release of journalists unjustly imprisoned abroad.

He repeated his criticism of the Harper government for not doing enough to secure his freedom after he was arrested in 2013 with two colleagues on terror-related charges, saying that the Canadian government didn’t understand the urgency of his case.

“When you’re there [in prison], your only hope is that your prime minister will get you out,” Fahmy said. “Sitting in that prison cell, it was difficult not to feel betrayed.”

Fahmy said there needs to be immediate leader-to-leader communication with cases like his, and added that though low-level government officials met with him “Mr. Harper refused” to talk to him and his lawyers.

Fahmy also addressed his lawsuit against his former employer Al Jazeera, saying, “no news service should be able to compromise … the safety” of its journalists.

“If we believe in a free press,” he said, “we need to defend it.”

Fahmy’s views and criticism of the Harper government come just days before the Oct. 19 election. But he said he has “no intention other than … expressions [his] views.”

He did admit that he met with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on Oct. 12, that he will meet with NDP leader Tom Mulcair on Oct. 13, and that he has no plans to meet with Harper as of the conference.

As for going back to the Middle East, Fahmy said he will definitely consider going back as a journalist.

“I’m a front-line reporter and I get bored in the studio,” he said.

Fahmy appeared with two of his lawyers and his wife Marwa Omara, who ended the conference by saying that she hopes the two can “have a normal life.”

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