letter writing

Al Jazeera's Journalists are Going to Trial

Ask Egypt to Release These Journalists Immediately

Al Jazeera journalists on trialThree Al Jazeera English journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, have been detained without trial for about two months. They have been in police custody since December 29, as they've been accused of "spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organization." Specifically, they are accused of having ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist organization in December. This prisoners, as well as Al Jazeera, deny the allegations and are disappointed about their continued detention.

Their case finally did go to trial on February 20, a case that actually involves 20 people (including the three journalists and five students). Twelve of those people are being tried in absence. All 20 are charged with broadcasting false news and of either belonging to or assisting the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The trial was adjourned in late March and is scheduled to resume tomorrow, April 10.

Amnesty International says in their issue brief that Fahmy has been denied medical attention for a shoulder injury he sustained a few days prior to his arrest. Months of proper medical care have made the injury worse, where Fahmy now has difficulty moving his arm.

If you think that using articles from Al Jazeera is too biased (I know people who would think that's biased and would therefore doubt the story), then here's an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour and an article from Poynter to corroborate the information.

Write a Letter to #FreeAJStaff

Writing a letter may not seem like much, but journalists write articles, take photos, and shoot video every day. The work seems inconsequential, but the work can also have a huge impact when the right people see it, when the information is presented in the right way, or when people speak out about the news they see (or the lack of news on other issues that they do see). The point is writing a letter can make a difference in freeing these journalists, and the others, if enough people write letters. Writing a letter will present our voices in a whole new way, augmenting the coverage of Al Jazeera, the current activism of others as well as the Twitter campaign with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.

To help, Amnesty International has provided all the pertinent information in their issue brief for you to write a letter on behalf of Al Jazeera's journalists. The brief also includes information about the five students who are being tried with the journalists as well as background information about the trial and why Egypt has been targeting Al Jazeera staff and other journalists. The three Al Jazeera journalists are not the only journalists facing trial, but the others are part of the 12 being tried in absence.

Please send letters to:

Public Prosecutor Hesham Mohamed Zaki Barakat Office of the Public Prosecutor Supreme Court House, 1 “26 July” Road Cairo, Arab Republic of EGYPT

Sample Letter

Hesham Mohamed Zaki Barakat Office of the Public Prosecutor Supreme Court House, 1 “26 July” Road Cairo, Arab Republic of EGYPT

Dear Chancellor,

I am writing in concern for MOHAMED FAHMY, PETER GRESTE, and BAHER MOHAMED, three Al Jazeera journalists who have been detained since December. They are currently being tried for broadcasting false news and for involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood.

I ask that the authorities release them immediately and unconditionally, as they have been arrested and charged solely for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.

I also call on you to order independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of ill-treatment and to ensure that MOHAMED FAHMY has access to any medical attention that he may require.

Please ensure that the journalists, and the five students: SOHAIB SAAD MOHAMED, KHALED MOHAMED ABDEL RAOUF, SHADY ABDELHAMID, AHMED ABDELAZIM, and ANAS MOHAMED EL BELTAGY, receive a fair trial under international standards and are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and to drop any charges solely resulting from their peaceful exercise of the freedom of expression.



Your Name


photo credit: Mohammed Nairooz via photopin cc

Protect the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Expression

Stop Russia From Making Street Protests a Crime

freedom of assembly RussiaRussia already has restrictive rules governing public assemblies, where a violation of the legal requirements for demonstrations entails a fine of 20,000 rubles ($570) or up to 40 hours of community service. A new draft law in the State Duma increases these penalties and introduces jail time for multiple offenses.

Many of these unauthorized street protests are peaceful and insignificant in number i.e. not very large, but are routinely dispersed by police. Often times, they use excessive force and arrest protesters, detaining them for up tot 15 days for violating the police's "lawful orders". The proposed draft law would increase the maximum detention period to 30 days, while also introducing 15-day detentions for a variety of other violations, such as infringing the movement of pedestrians.

Video footage, and other relevant evidence isn't considered during the trial. Judges accept police statements unquestioningly, even if there is evidence to the contrary.

For more information about this issue, here's a brief outlining additional background information as well as further action. This is also the source of the information I provided above.

What Can Be Done About This?

The issue may seem beyond our control, but it's really not. Instead of throwing your hands up in despair, or simply complaining about the type of place Russia is, you can do something by writing a letter.

Will one letter stop the draft law? Probably not. But, choosing to not write a letter or doubting its power isn't going to stop the draft law either. At least writing a letter, with the hope that others will write letters as well (or perhaps share this post), has a chance of making a difference. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. Criticizing the way others take action, without taking any action of your own, also accomplishes nothing.

To make action easier for people, I've written a sample letter that you can use to help write your own letter. Or, if you wish, you are welcome to copy this letter, print it out, and send it on your behalf.

Let's stop Russia from making street protests a crime. Below is the sample letter as well as the appropriate address for the sendee.

Sample Letter

Sergey Evgenyevich Naryskin

State Duma of the Russian Federation

1 Okhotny Ryad st

103256 Moscow



Dear Chairman,

I am writing in concern for draft law No. 485729-6 on "Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in relation to improving the legislation on public gatherings)". This law was proposed March 31, 2014 in the State Duma.

I ask that you withdraw the draft immediately and ensure that no further restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly are considered in the Russian parliament.

I also ask that you help bring Russia's current legislation on public assemblies and the relevant practice in line with its obligations under international human rights law and in line with Russia's constitution.

Please also ensure that everyone in Russia can enjoy their right to freedom of assembly.


Your Name


photo credit: richardthomasesq via photopin cc