Peter Greste and the Plight of the Kidnapped Journalist
Australian news correspondent Peter Greste just got out of prison. He was arrested while working on behalf of Al Jazeera English, taken from his hotel room by Egyptian authorities in December of 2013. The charge? Falsifying news and negatively impacting perceptions of the country. That he was arrested on trumped-up charges should come as no surprise: It's no secret that Al Jazeera has historically held close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and around the time of his arrest, the Egyptian interim government under the control of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Wrong place, wrong affiliation. Greste's mistake was entirely beyond the scope of what he could have planned for. He was in a country he admits he knew little about, one with a government that didn't like some guys who happened to be homies with Greste's employer. And just like that, jack-booted Egyptian soldiers were kicking in his door, and he quickly found himself inside a prison cell, alone, wondering what he did wrong. Chase that with a prompt conviction and a seven-year sentence, and you've got yourself a really bad couple of months.
Greste's story has a happy ending, fortunately—he's finally been freed after a year of incarceration, and from his appearance, he looks to be in good health. But his story is an interesting case study that reflects the many dangers of being a journalist reporting in a country that doesn't value free speech as much as the Western world does.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of 2014, there were 221 journalists imprisoned worldwide, from China to Syria, Russia to Iran. The foreign correspondent's job is neither glamorous nor safe, and perhaps when we pull up a news story on our RSS feed, we should consider that someone put themselves in danger's path to bring it to us.
For a more in-depth look at Egypt's treatment of journalists during times of internal strife, give my novel "Cogar's Revolt" a read.
(Featured image courtesy of walkleys.com)