Journalist Mohamed Fahmy has co-created a foundation to fight for press freedom, even as he continues to fight for his own freedom in Egypt.
“Too many journalists are being wrongly thrown into prison, effectively silencing their voices,” Fahmy said Thursday in a statement announcing the launch of the Fahmy Foundation for Free Press.
The Egyptian-born Canadian, a producer and Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera, was arrested in Cairo on Dec. 29, 2013, along with two colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed. The trio was later convicted of terrorism-related charges that were widely criticized as bogus.
Fahmy spent 411 days in detention before being released on bail last month, but is unable to leave the country as his case is retried.
The retrial is set to resume on Sunday.
The Fahmy Foundation, started with his fiancée Marwa Omara, is already working on its first case — that of imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud “Shawkan” Abou Zeid. He’s been in prison, awaiting trial, since August 2013.
Shawkan, 27, was covering the violent protests in Cairo that followed the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi, when he was arrested along with Daily Beast reporter Mike Giglio and French photographer Louis Jammes.
Giglio and Jammes were released, but Shawkan “was wrongly associated with other detainees and mixed in with members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” The Guardian reported.
“Shawkan has seven years of professional experience and is highly respected by the Egyptian photojournalist community,” Fahmy said. “Our foundation will advocate vigorously for his release and will continue to meet with his family should they require financial assistance should he face a trial.”
Shawkan, Fahmy and his Al Jazeera colleagues were among an estimated 16,000 political prisoners arrested in the months following Morsi’s ousting. Other estimates put the number of political prisoners languishing in Egyptian detention as high as 41,0000.
And as far as imprisoned journalists go, Reporters Without Borders has documented 158 journalists who have been detained around the world, so far in 2015, while at least 14 journalists have been killed.
The establishment of the foundation is in response to the “unprecedented global support of millions of people who supported Fahmy.”
But the Fahmy Foundation clarified, in its statement, that no funds raised by the organization would go to Fahmy’s ongoing legal battle.
In February, Fahmy officially renounced his dual Egyptian citizenship in a bid to be deported under a new presidential decree, that allows the president to deport foreign citizens convicted or accused of crimes. Instead, Fahmy’s and Mohamed’s cases were sent to retrial.
Their colleague Greste was deported from Egypt under that decree on Feb. 1 and has since returned home to Australia.
Mohamed’s wife has made a plea to foreign governments to offer her husband nationality and a passport, in hopes of securing his freedom.