Confirmed victory

Update: On 28 August we recieved VERY good news, that the new Egyptian Justice Minister has advised the Australian Ambassador that the case against Austin has been dropped and the travel ban lifted. A short time later Austin was able to confirm through his lawyer that the charges against his translator and Egyptian national Aliya Alwi, as well as US student Derek Ludovici, were also dropped. 

Thank you to everyone for your support!

A young Australian desperately needs your help.
Austin Mackell is a 28 year old freelance journalist. Since February last year, he has been braving difficult and dangerous conditions in Egypt to report on the Arab Spring. His stories on the struggle for democracy in Egypt have been run in respected media outlets around the world, including The Guardian.
On February 11 this year, Mackell, his translator Aliya Alwi and US student Derek Ludovici were on assignment when they were attacked by a small mob. Over the next 56 hours, the trio were taken into custody and repeatedly interrogated, threatened and intimidated. Eventually the three were charged with “inciting riots” - a charge which carries a penalty of up to seven years jail.
Austin, who was denied a lawyer, has had his passport, camera, laptop and external hard drive confiscated. All three have had their faces splashed across the Egyptian media and been accused of being foreign agents bent on destabilising the country.

Incredibly, throughout this ordeal, the Australian Government has remained silent - refusing to speak up to defend an Australian citizen.

In Austin’s own words: “I want the Government to defend the right of an Australian journalist to do his job in Egypt without being harassed and threatened with 5-7 years in jail. I want them to state very clearly that I am not a spy and that it is unacceptable for an Australian citizen to be treated this way.”

With Bob Carr just named as Australia’s Foreign Minister, NOW is the time for him to speak out. If the matter goes to court, it might be too late to intervene.

Tell Bob Carr to make a strong public statement and lobby the Egyptian Government to drop these concocted charges against Austin Mackell, Aliya Alwi and Derek Ludovici.


The full text of the Open Letter can be found under the “Petition Letter” tab.

For further details on action you can take to support Mackell and his colleagues, visit his blog.

The following people have lent their support to this Open Letter:

Michael Brull

Elizabeth Humphrys, Editor (Oceania & South-East Asia) Interface Journal

John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker

Julian Assange, Wikileaks

Guy Rundle, Author and Journalist

Stuart Rees AM, Director of Sydney Peace Foundation, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Professor Sarah Joseph, Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

Lizzie O’Shea, Lawyer

Jennifer Robinson, Lawyer

Lee Rhiannon, Senator, Australian Greens

Scott Ludlam, Senator, Australian Greens

Adam Bandt, Member for Melbourne, Australian Greens

Jamie Parker, NSW MP, Australian Greens

Dr John Kaye, NSW MLC, Australian Greens

David Shoebridge, NSW MLC, Australian Greens

Sydney PEN

Dr Debra Adelaide, Vice-President, Sydney PEN

Joel Gibson, Board Member, Sydney PEN

Antony Loewenstein, Author and Independent Journalist.

Kirsten Tranter, Author

Dr Jeff Sparrow, Editor Overland

Jacinda Woodhead, Assistant Editor, Overland

Irene Doutney, Councillor, Sydney City Council

Christopher Warren, Federal Secretary, Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance

Jim Casey, State Secretary, NSW, Fire Brigade Employees’ Union

Warren Smith, Assistant National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia

Paul McAleer, Secretary, Sydney Branch, Maritime Union of Australia

Ray Jackson, Indigenous Social Justice Association

Dr Tad Tietze, Consultant Psychiatrist and blogger

Hicham Safieddine, Managing Editor, Al-Akhbar English (News Outlet)

Yazan Al-Saadi, Al-Akhbar (News Outlet)

Dima Charif, Al-Akhbar (News Outlet)

Professor David Dixon, Dean of Law, University of NSW

Professor Larissa Behrendt, Director of Research, Jumbunna IHL, University of Technology, Sydney 

Professor Michael Burawoy, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Wendy Bacon, Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

Dr John Docker, Honorary Professor, History Department, University of Sydney

Dr Scott Burchill, International Relations, Deakin University

Michael Thomson, President, University of Sydney Branch, National Tertiary Education Union

Dr Damien Cahill, Academic VP, University of Sydney Branch, National Tertiary Education Union

Paddy Gibson, Senior Researcher, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology, Sydney

Craig Longman, Senior Researcher, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology, Sydney 

Associate Professor Peter Slezak, Philosophy, University of NSW

Dr David Glanz, NTEU branch committee member, RMIT University

Dr James Arvanitakis, Academic University of Western Sydney

Dr Jessica Whyte, Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis, University of Western Sydney

Dr Rick Kuhn, Reader in Politics, Australian National University

Anthea Vogl, Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney 

Dr Nick Riemer, Senior Lecturer, English and Linguistics Department, University of Sydney

Dr Stewart Jackson, Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

Dr Jamie Allinson, Research Fellow at The British Institute in Amman

Dr Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway

Dr Mark Pendleton, Lecturer in Japanese Studies, The University of Sheffield

Dr Cristina Flesher Fominaya, University of Aberdeen

Colin Barker, honorary lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Dr Gareth Dale, Senior Lecturer in politics and international relations, Brunel University

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO Settlement Services International

John Passant, Editor, En Passant

Cassie Findlay, Archivist and co-founder of the Recordkeeping Roundtable 

Kane Ord, Project Officer, One Planet Project

Nat Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative

Jean Parker, PhD candidate, University of Technology, Sydney 

Phil Chilton, PhD Candidate, University of Western Australia

John Morris, President Canterbury Bankstown Teachers Association

David Suttle

Alice Williams

Lauren Mellor

Anne Picot

Erima Dall

Letter to
Australian Foreign Minister
Australian Prime Minister
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Dear Prime Minister and Foreign Minister

Austin Mackell is a young freelance journalist, who moved to Egypt in February last year. His writings have been featured in respected media outlets across the world, including New Matilda, The Guardian, Al-Akhbar and Crikey.

On 11 February, Mackell, his translator, Aliya Alwi, US masters student Derek Ludovici, and taxi driver Zakaria Ahmad drove to Mahalla al- Kubra. They sought to interview Kamal el-Fayoumi, a well known trade unionist and labour activist. Upon arriving, they were attacked and threatened by a small mob. They were instructed by a police officer to come to a police station for their own protection.

Over the next 56 hours, they were held in custody. They were all repeatedly interrogated.

During this time, they were allowed minimal communication with the outside world. Some courageous Egyptian activists, like Shahira Abouelleil, Kareem el-Behairy, and Omar Kamel, followed the detainees, tweeted about their location to the outside world, and brought along lawyers and journalists to help them. They also provided the detainees with food.

Mackell, Alwi and Ludovivi have been told they have been charged with “inciting people to vandalise public property and governmental buildings”. Specifically it is alleged they promised children money if they threw rocks at the Qism El-Tani police station in Mahalla. If convicted, they are advised they face imprisonment for 5-7 years. [Ahmad was later released without charge, as was el-Fayoumi who was arrested when he visited the police station to assist Mackell.]

Since their release, they have faced ongoing threats and harassment. The police released their reports to the state media. Consequently, their faces and addresses were featured in the media across Egypt, accusing them of being spies. It has become unsafe for Mackell to live in, or even visit, his old apartment. Mackell’s passport, camera, laptop, and external hard drive have been confiscated, along with 800 Egyptian pounds kept at his apartment. His flatmate’s camera was also confiscated, along with Alwi’s mobile phone, and money from both Alwi and Ludovici. Mackell is also concerned that personal information on his computer will be copied, compromising his work as a journalist and possibly placing his sources at risk.

The charges against the group are hard to credit. It is worth considering why they may have been brought.

Mackell has reported critically on the at times brutal suppression of protesters by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), currently ruling Egypt. For example, in a New Matilda article on 17 June, 2011, Mackell wrote critically of military tribunals, saying that some are “simply appallingly unfair trials in which harsh sentences are delivered quickly and easily. Some, however, are also clearly part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation that the army has been waging against critical voices here in Egypt.”
In an article on 13 October, 2011, Mackell wrote that SCAF opposed Egypt’s “democratic blossoming”, as they are “at the core of the corrupt economic elite that is threatened by the leftward shift likely to accompany the election of a populist government.” In one of his most recent articles, before his arrest, Mackell chronicled the clashes between SCAF and Egypt’s protest movement. His article concluded with a condemnation of the Egyptian military’s “brutality, stupidity and incompetence in dealing with protests in Tahrir”.

Fayoumi is a long-time labour activist from Mahalla, who first went on strike against factory working conditions in 1988. Mahalla’s labour activism, in particular from December 2006 to the general strike called for 6 April 2008, inspired much of the country. This includes the April 6 movement, who played the major role in organising the massive 25 January protests that wound up overthrowing Mubarak.

It appears that the persecution of Mackell in particular is to intimidate independent journalists who would be interested in reporting on Egypt’s labour movement, particularly in Mahalla.

So far, no Australian Foreign Minister has said a word about all of this. Your predecessor, Mr Kevin Rudd, said not a word in defence of the rights of Mackell, even though he is an Australian citizen. Unlike the Egyptian activists who struggled to support Mackell, Ludovici, Alwi and Ahmad, Rudd was silent.

When the Egyptians were struggling to overthrow the Mubarak dictatorship, Rudd also failed to say a word in support of their struggle. However, in March 2011, when speaking about the Middle East, he said “Australia, of course shares values with those who seek to widen the tent of democracy across the world. These are the values of freedom of speech and assembly, and a commitment to open and transparent government.”

Foreign Minister, will you speak out and defend the rights of freedom of speech and assembly in Egypt? Will you defend the right of an Australian journalist to report freely in another country? Will you defend Mackell and his associates against these plainly politicised charges? Will you campaign for their rights? As a leading figure in Australia’s Labor Party, will you defend the right of a labour activist to associate with sympathetic journalists?

Foreign Minister, Austin Mackell is an Australian citizen who urgently needs your help. Are you going to commit to the values of freedom of speech and assembly?

If you would like to add your name to this petition, click on this link.
For further details on action you can take to support Mackell and his colleagues, visit his blog.



Elizabeth Humphrys started this petition with a single signature, and won with 9,247 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.