Sunday, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day and this year, Vancouver has a special reason to show support for journalists.
Our peaceful city on the Northwest Coast is home to a new but high-profile organization launched in support of reporters’ rights and safety in countries where they are most threatened.
On March 5, a group of Vancouver lawyers partnered with Mohamed Fahmy to found the Fahmy Foundation.
Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian journalist, was arrested in August 2013 while covering the Arab Spring for Al Jazeera English. He was recently released on bail but before that spent more than 400 days in prison. He and his fiancée, Marwa Omara, have said they intend to settle in Vancouver.
To mark the Fahmy Foundation’s first Press Freedom Day in Vancouver, members of the organization have planned to join a rally at the Vancouver Gallery this Sunday morning at 11 a.m.
“As I continue to battle for my own exoneration, I am proud to work with notable Canadian friends, lawyers, and volunteers to remind world leaders that a free press is a fundamental core of the true democracy they promote,” Fahmy said quoted in a media release.
Scheduled to speak at the event is Vancouver deputy mayor Andrea Reimer and Peter Klein, director of the UBC graduate school of journalism.
Joanna Gislason, a board member of the Fahmy Foundation, recently told the Straight the group is expanding its work beyond Fahmy’s case.
“Part of Mohamed‘s dream while he was in prison was to do something positive for other journalists that found themselves in the same circumstance that he was in, wrongfully imprisoned for doing his job and desperate for support and for attention from the outside world,” she said.
The Fahmy Foundation media release concerning World Press Freedom Day lists a number of specific cases the organization has taken up.
Those include that of American journalist Jason Rezaian who is presently detained in Iran, photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid (better known as Shawkan) who was imprisoned in Egypt around the same time as Fahmy, Ahmed Ziada who is also held in Egypt, and a Qatari poet named Mohamed Al-Ajami.
In 2014, 61 reporters and photographers were killed with a confirmed motive related to their work in journalism, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). That’s down from 70 killed in 2013 and 74 in 2012. However, it compares to an average of 48 journalists killed annually through the first decade of the 2000s.
As of May 1, CPJ had recorded 21 journalists killed in 2015.
“There has never been a more dangerous time for journalists, with record numbers killed and imprisoned around the world,” reads the opening statement of CPJ’s most-recent annual report.
Vancouver’s rally for World Press Freedom Day is scheduled take place at the Vancouver Art Gallery at 750 Hornby Street on Sunday, May 3, beginning at 11 a.m.