Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, currently on trial in Egypt, sued his Qatar-based employer for alleged negligence and for failing to ensure the safety of its journalists on Monday. Fahmy, along with two other journalists of the network, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year on charges of supporting the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. However, their convictions were later overturned and a retrial was ordered.
“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,” Fahmy’s lawyer Joanna Gislason reportedly said. Fahmy, who is a Canadian citizen, is now seeking $100 million in punitive and remedial damages from his employer.
The lawsuit was filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada on May 5.
“They (Al-Jazeera) don't seem to understand that they cannot continue to challenge the sovereignty of governments, put the story ahead of the safety of their employees, and assume that they will continue to get away with it,” Fahmy reportedly said, during a press conference in Cairo on Monday. "Now, I will sue them at any cost, and I will win."
In February, Fahmy and his co-defendant Baher Mohamed were freed on bail ahead of their retrial. Another defendant, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, has already been deported to his home country.
Fahmy also accused Al Jazeera of “epic negligence” by failing to inform him about the legal status of his case in Egypt and not paying his legal fees in full after he sought a lawyer different from the ones the network had hired. In addition, Fahmy alleged that the network’s Egyptian channel, Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr, which has now been shut down, had actively supported the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Al-Jazeera Mubashir was a sponsor for the Muslim Brotherhood and its equipment was used by Muslim Brotherhood activists across the country,” Fahmy reportedly said, in comments similar to the ones made earlier in February.
“It is an infringement on freedom of speech to silence three innocent, recognized journalists. Yet a very important aspect of this case is Qatar abusing its Al-Jazeera Arabic platform in waging a media war against Egypt,” Fahmy told the Associated Press in February.
Late last month, the network's U.S. arm was sued by a former employee alleging that he was wrongfully terminated after complaining about a senior executive's anti-Semitic and sexist behavior. Last week, the Financial Times reported that the Gulf-based network, which has struggled to establish a significant presence in the U.S. market, would subject its American arm to a leadership change following several months of labor issues and layoffs.
The closing arguments in Fahmy’s case are expected to begin on June 1.