Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy is suing the network for $100 million in punitive and remedial damages for alleged negligence and breach of contract, Fahmy and his attorneys announced Monday.
Fahmy’s lawyers, Joanna Gislason and Gary Caroline, filed the lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada on May 5, they said at a news conference in Cairo.
Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, was held with two other Al Jazeera journalists for more than 400 days in Egypt after they and others were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization – the Muslim Brotherhood – threatening Egypt’s national security, airing false news and other offenses.
They were convicted and sentenced to prison terms, but an appeals court in Egypt ordered a retrial, with the journalists released on bail earlier this year.
According to his attorneys, Fahmy accuses the network of “epic negligence” by misinforming him about its legal status in Egypt and airing his reports on its Egyptian channel Jazeera Mubashir Masr, which was banned by an Egyptian court for alleged biased reporting favoring the Muslim Brotherhood. He said Al Jazeera didn’t pay for his legal fees in full after he sought a lawyer different from the ones the network had hired. Al Jazeera has denied that claim.
“Mohamed Fahmy is a professional journalist. He understands that there are risks of going into the field. That’s not what we are talking about here,” Fahmy attorney Gislason said Monday in Cairo. “Not only did Al Jazeera fail to protect these journalists, it itself imperiled them. Al Jazeera itself contributed to the harm that they suffered. It put them in harm’s way,”
An Al Jazeera spokesman called the assertions “sad.”
“It’s sad to see Fahmy and his lawyer repeating criticisms of Al Jazeera made by the Egyptian authorities,” the spokesman said. “It’s what his captors want to hear at this stage of the retrial. All governments have news outlets that they don’t like, but they don’t use spurious grounds to put journalists in jail. If Fahmy wants to seek monetary compensation from anyone, it should be from his jailers.”
Throughout his imprisonment, Fahmy had described the case as politicized and part of a feud between Egypt and Qatar, which owns the Doha-based network.
Fahmy expanded that on Monday, stating that during his imprisonment, he learned that the network had been supplying cameras to Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers and using their footage without sourcing. “This is not journalism, this is propaganda,” Fahmy said.
His new Egyptian legal counselor, Mohamed Hamouda, also spoke at the news conference in Cairo and he underscored what Fahmy’s team sees as the political aspects of the case.
“From the viewpoint of (those who) who fought the Muslim Brotherhood … and the terrorism that we saw in our Egypt on their hands and their attempted religious dictatorship, the Al Jazeera channel was (the) right and left hand of the (Muslim Brotherhood) group,” Hamouda told reporters. “Al Jazeera has always been the arm moving the extremist operations and the coup operations – not in the pursuit of democracy as you Westerners want but in the pursuit of regional dominance for a small state.”
Fahmy added: “A lot of the research I’ve done in prison and since I’ve been out of prison has really added a lot of what I’m saying today in terms of clearly stating that Al Jazeera Mubashir is not just biased; they are sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood.”