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Mahmoud Hussein’s case was the canary in the coal mine | Mahmoud Hussein

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December 23, 2016, was supposed to be a happy day for Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, as he travelled to Cairo to visit his family. But that day turned into a tragedy for him and his loved ones. Upon his arrival, the Egyptian authorities hauled him off to prison, where he has remained for two years now, facing several charges, including “spreading false information”. He is yet to receive anything remotely resembling a fair trial or even adequate medical care.

Just weeks before Hussein was detained, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced that nine journalists were in jail globally on charges related to “fake news”. Hussein became the 10th.

Even though the precedent had already been set with such a charge, accusations of spreading false information levelled against journalists increased exponentially after the election of US President Donald Trump that year. His constant use of the term “fake news” to attack media critical of his policies and actions popularised the term as a rhetorical broadside globally.

Today “fake news” is regularly evoked against inconvenient reporting not just by the usual authoritarian suspects, such as in Russia, Syria and Venezuela, but also by governments in relatively democratic countries, including the Philippines, Poland, and Spain.

Legislation criminalising any news reporting that contradicts official information has also proliferated in recent years across the world. Such laws basically determine what reality is – ie, it can be nothing else but the official narrative. In this sense, “fake news” has not only enabled crackdowns on journalists, but it has also become a legal and rhetorical tool for delegitimising the very notion of independent reporting.

As of December 1, 2018, 28 journalists worldwide are behind bars on “fake news” charges. This alarming statistic demonstrates how “fake news” has mutated from a rhetorical cudgel to a legislation-backed weapon employed to silence reporters.

Cameroonian journalist Mimi Mefo was detained in November this year and accused of publishing “false information” after she reported on the killing of American missionary Charles Wesco and the instability in the country’s Anglophone region. Maria Ressa, founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, is facing a slew of tax evasion-related charges after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lambasted the media outlet as “fake news” for its critical coverage of his administration.

But the grand champion of persecuting journalists through “fake news” charges has been Egypt: 19 of those 28 journalists imprisoned on such charges worldwide are Egyptians.

In fact, the Egyptian leadership has had the dubious honour of being a trendsetter in the use of “fake news” accusations against journalists: among the first journalists to be hit with these charges were Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, who were arrested on December 29, 2013.

Mohamed, Fahmy, and Greste were later freed after more than a year in detention, but more journalists would take their place. In 2015, Egypt passed anti-terror legislation that specifically made it a crime to dispute official accounts of terror attacks. Since then, more and more journalists have been imprisoned in Egypt, and false information charges figure ever more prominently in the justification for their detention.

Egypt has also resorted to mass trials of media professionals. As of December 1 this year, at least 12 Egyptian journalists have been charged under case 441/2018 with “spreading false information”. Among them was Wael Abbas, a prominent blogger, who was arrested on May 23 and only freed from custody earlier this month. This case demonstrates how indiscriminate Egyptian authorities have become in their crackdown on the media.

With at least 25 journalists behind bars (19 of whom accused of spreading “false information”), Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi is betting on the silence of the international community, so he can continue to muzzle dissident voices unobstructed. In doing so he has even taken on international institutions.

In April, the Egyptian foreign ministry slammed UNESCO for awarding detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize. Abou Zeid was supposed to be released by now after being sentenced in September this year to five years in prison (which he has already served) in the mass trial of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal; he was charged along with other defendants of organising an armed gathering and resisting the authorities, although he gone to the sit-in to cover it as a journalist. By now, his detention is illegal under Egyptian law and prosecutors are saying that he may not be released until February next year.

The international community must demand the release of Abou Zeid, Hussein and all other unjustly detained journalists in Egypt. An international campaign recently helped Abbas get released from detention. This means the Egyptian leadership clearly cares about its image internationally and therefore, we must keep up the pressure.

We must continue to draw public attention to Egypt’s imprisoned journalists and call out Sisi’s weaponisation of “fake news”. And we must also push back against the increasing prevalence of “fake news” rhetoric which threatens to criminalise journalists around the globe.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre

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There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating

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An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario

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Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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