Mohammed Fahmy is the subject of a new documentary, Mohamed Fahmy: Half Free, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker and GRC collaborator David Paperny, and co-produced by GRC executive director Peter Klein. The film has its world premier on October 1st on the Canadian Broadcasting Network.
The former Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief was arrested in December 2013, along with two colleagues, charged with terrorism-related crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison. Fahmy launched a campaign for press freedom from behind bars, and has continued to champion safety and security for journalists who have been imprisoned or under threat since he was pardoned in 2015.
“Fahmy’s story is even more relevant today than when we began filming,” says Paperny, who traveled to Europe, Australia, the US and the Middle East to film this documentary. “The attacks on journalists and freedom of the press today is growing.”
Fahmy served as the inaugural Global Journalist in Residence, and used his time at the Global Reporting Centre to speak with students, journalism organizations and governments. He also wrote his book The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom.
“What do you do with this freedom?” Fahmy asks in the film. “I have the liberty now to turn this experience into something positive, to help others. If you don’t make use of it, then your whole imprisonment has been arbitrary.”
Fahmy is suing his former employer Al Jazeera, as well as the country of Qatar, for mishandling his case and contributing to his imprisonment. A surveillance and hacking attack earlier this year revealed that Fahmy was provided with $250,000 towards his legal fees by a senior official of the United Arab Emirates. Fahmy was shaken by the campaign to discredit him, and says all the funds went straight to his legal defense.
He continues to travel the globe, raising awareness about journalists behind bars and pressuring governments to take action. He says that, “supporting the oppressed, seeking a true democratic society – that’s why I went into journalism in the first place and that’s why I’m willing to fight to the end.”
Mohamed Fahmy: Half Free premiers in Canada on October 1st at 9:00 PM ET on CBC Docs POV.