Freedom

Watch this video below:

http://www.theguardian.com/media/video/2015/sep/23/peter-greste-receives-news-of-al-jazeera-journalist-pardons-video

I was inspired to write this note after watching the ending of The Chaser’s Media Circus on the ABC last night. Usually it’s a show I only like in small doses, but at the start of the show Mum said she’d heard about something that would occur during it.

See, Peter Greste was a panelist and according to Mum, he was going to receive a text about the pardoning of Mohammed Fahmy during the show. The story she heard was true – at the very end of the show, just as they were finishing the official business, the host was signaled by a crewperson who brought over a phone. His two teammates crowded round as he read the message and at first they – and the rest of the cast – were joking.

But Greste didn’t say anything. I could see him reading the text and his mouth dropped open in shock. “Oh my God.” He managed to say, his whole self slumping a bit in relief. The host announced the “breaking news”: Mohammed Fahmy had been pardoned and was free. They didn’t know about the fate of Baher Mohammed yet (he was pardoned too!). I was quite moved by the expression on Greste’s face, as relief gave way to surprised joy and then jubilation. I saw a glimpse of that smile of his, famous from when he’d faced the media after flying home earlier in the year. But this time, there was more joy and less tiredness to it – though still plenty of relief.

After explaining the text and accepting congratulations – including hugs from teammates and applause and cheers all-round, he went on to speak further. He apologised for feeling emotional – as if he needed to. I was getting a bit choked up myself. For as Greste said – they’d been fighting over “the past eight months” for this.

“This” was the right to be free. The three men are journalists. They had been convicted (after quite the wait) of “spreading false news and supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood”.

The fact is, it is the job of journalists to report on things that need to be known, regardless of consequences or whether or not the government(s) like what they have to say. All deserve to have freedom to do that. One of the main pillars of democracy is a free press, which is able to hold others to account. It is essential that the press are allowed to do this without fear or being beholden to anyone (not easy).

I could be a smart-aleck about this point and how true (or not) it is in places closer to home with regard to Murdoch and the recent Border Farce (for instance), but I won’t. At least, not much, today. Though it is worth thinking about.

The news of the pardon is a victory, though there is still some way to go. (I don’t think Greste himself has been pardoned yet for instance – he was just deported a few months ago.)
We must keep fighting. But for today, we can share Greste’s smile.

#IStandWithPeterGresteandColleagues.

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