The decision by Cairo’s court to sentenced three Al-Jazeera English (AJE) journalists – Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste has shocked journalists around the world.
It has raised questions about the independence of the Egyptian courts and confirms that Freedom House was correct to classify the Egypt media as ‘not free’ in its 2014 report.
His sentence, and that of his colleagues, has sparked a wide ranging debate on the freedom of the press. Social media has been flooded with the use of #freepetergreste hashtag.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were arrested on 29 December, 2013 and accused of spreading the false news about Egypt and of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement. Six months after they were arrested,on June 23, Greste and Fahmi were jailed for 7 years in prison, their colleague Mohamed received 10 years in the jail.
Greste, Australian journalist of Latvian origin, working for Al-Jazeera in Africa, has had the highest profile of the group.He is a respected journalist and has worked for such well-known media organizations as Reuters, CNN, WTN, BBC, but lately worked for the Al-Jazeera international (English) bureau in Egypt. In 2011 he won a prestigious Peabody Award for a documentary on Somalia: Land of Anarchy.
Two petitions have been circulated in Australia. One petition is on the Change.org calling on the Australian gvernment to put pressure on Egypt to free Greste. The other, by Amnesty International, calls on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi to release the three men. Both have received around 80,000 signatures.
As Peter Greste has the dual Australian and Latvian citizenship, his case has also been taken up by the Latvian diplomatic service and journalist organisations.The day after Greste’s sentencing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia statement expressing “true disappointment” in the sentence and that Greste had only been carring out his professional duties.
The Foreign Minister of Latvia has agreed to co-operate with the Australian government to secure Greste’s release.
The Association of Latvian Journalists has also published an official letter, saying that it is not acceptable that Peter Gresteand his colleagues “had no opportunity to defend them in thecourt, had no chance to have a lawyer.” The letter re-iterates that Greste is an experienced and respected journalist, who has always complied the professional ethics of journalists.
The letter calls on the Egyptian authorities to review the case and calls on the Latvian people to boycott travel to Egypt.
Anyone who wishes to support Peter Greste can e-mail to the firstname.lastname@example.org; his family will print out the messages and and bring them to the Peter.
Photo credit: Peter Greste’s Twitter profile picture.
Tags: #freepetergreste, 2014, Al Jazeera English, Al-Jazeera, arrested journalist, Cairo, Egypt, Freedom House, Freedom House report, journalist trial, Muslim Brotherhood, Peter Greste, Press freedom, protest