Double standards (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

Late last month, three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested in Paris after being spotted flying a drone in the Bois de Boulogne area in the western part of the French capital. According to Al-Jazeera, the journalists were filming a report on “recent mystery drones” that were earlier spotted in Paris.The news was reported in the international media without much fanfare. No one argued that the arrests trampled journalists’ freedom to work or expression. No one said that the French government was muzzling the foreign press.In France, the flying of drones is banned without a licence, and no drones are allowed over Paris under any circumstance.There is no doubt, therefore, that the police enforced the law when they arrested Al-Jazeera’s journalists, just as Egyptian police did when they arrested newsmen working for the same service for operating without licence in violation of Egyptian laws.In Egypt’s case, all hell broke loose. In France’s case, it was business as usual.This strikes me as a double standard, which has become standard practice whenever the question of human rights surfaces on the international scene.Al-Jazeera journalists broke the law in both Egypt and France. When they were arrested in Egypt, foreign government officials and human rights groups raised hell, and the Western media was indignant over the prison sentences an Egyptian court passed against them. Egypt was portrayed as a repressive country led by a heavy-handed regime that suppresses on the opposition and muzzles reporters.While at it, US research centres urged their government to halt military aid to Cairo and keep cooperation to a minimum.No one criticised France’s detention of the journalists for breaking the law.More evidence of double standards can be seen in Egypt’s recent retaliatory strike in Libya against Islamic State (IS) terrorists who had killed 21 Egyptians in cold blood. The strikes were precise, the targets were carefully selected and the action was fully coordinated with the legitimate Libyan governments.But within hours human rights groups were, against all evidence, denouncing Egypt for shedding innocent blood so carelessly. Amnesty International denounced the death of innocent civilians in the strikes, citing as evidence “eyewitness accounts.”Coalition strikes in Syria and Iraq against IS raises no eyebrows in the community of human rights groups, the international press and officialdom. Aerial attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t seem to attract much attention either. But a timely and measured response by the Egyptians ruffled the feathers of concerned individuals and groups all over the Western human rights scene.The Doha-based television service Al-Jazeera is in possession of the latest technology, has a skilled and well-trained team and has global reach. But there is one thing that it lacks: integrity.Al-Jazeera fabricates facts to promote its own agenda, and its editorial practices reflect the twisted policies of its political masters.Al-Jazeera sees itself as above the law, as is evidenced by these two incidents in Egypt and France. Its journalists are apparently incapable of following the simplest legal procedures in the country to which they are posted.Egypt has discontinued Al-Jazeera’s transmission from Cairo, but the station continues to spit its venom from elsewhere.Efforts were made to reconcile Egypt and Qatar, with the late King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia actively involved in mediation. As a result, Al-Jazeera Mubasher, the Arabic-language affiliate, toned down its rhetoric and became more respectful in its reporting on Egypt.But once King Abdallah passed away, the old practices were revived, and now Al-Jazeera is back inciting violence and taking cheap shots at the Egyptian regime.None of this is going to stop us. Egypt is a country where laws must be respected and violence is countered with firm action.
The writer is a political researcher at Cairo University.