Greste sentence shocks journalists

FEW words can adequately describe how wrong it is that Australian journalist Peter Greste has been jailed in Egypt for seven years.

His crime? Being a journalist – a good, ethical journalist upholding the values of free press and expression.

Greste and his two colleagues at al-Jazeera English,  Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were jailed for seven years on charges of aiding terrorists and endangering national security. Mohamed received an extra three years for allegedly carrying a bullet shell.

They are accused of falsifying news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, but the case against them has appeared to lack any evidence.

Human rights groups across the globe are condemning the move, with Amnesty International saying the journalists were “pawns” in the dispute between Egypt and Qatar.

There is no doubt Greste and his colleagues have become the scapegoats for political motivations.

They are not alone, with thousands of Egyptians locked away during the past year as political prisoners.

Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Philip Luther, was one of many to label the move to jail the journalists a ferocious attack on media freedom.

“The only reason these three men are in jail is because the Egyptian authorities don’t like what they have to say,'' he said. "They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released. In Egypt today anyone who dares to challenge the state’s narrative is considered a legitimate target.” 

Many journalists were anxious for Greste and his colleagues in the lead-up to Monday night's verdict - but all were shocked by the shameful decision.

There is no doubt the Australian media will keep pressure on the federal government to respond.

They will be fighting for all journalists, but importantly they will be fighting for Peter Greste and his family.

Yes, we care about press freedom - but we care more about the people affected by this distressing saga.

It's fair to say most journalists, and many others, were moved to tears by the Greste family's reaction to this week's shocking news. 

Not only by their strength and the way they have rallied to support their son and brother, but by their steadfast determination to fight for press freedom.

At a time when their family is in turmoil, Peter Greste's parents acknowledged all their son stands for. 

Juris Greste said it better than anyone: "We are not usually a family of superlatives but I have to say this morning my vocabulary fails to convey just how shattered we are.

"We considered a range of other outcomes but you can never prepare yourself for something as painful as this,’’ he said.

“We are absolutely determined and committed to continue this battle until Peter, as well as his colleagues are all out of prison and free to do and go wherever they decide.

“We put it to you that it is also a slap in the face and a kick in the groin to Australia, as well as all fair-minded people around the world.” 

Yes, it is. #FreeAJStaff


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