Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The sentencing of Peter Greste

is an appalling thing but I am less surprised than I might have been. I am appalled that he should have been incarcerated in the first place but I am not surprised he was found guilty. A friend who works at a university in Egypt warned me that it was "very likely". Even before Greste was arrested she warned me that he needed to be much more careful. He was taking risks, too many risks.
If you are a war correspondent or you are reporting on civil unrest then you do take risks. Most of those risks are physical risks. It is part of the job. You wear a flak jacket and, sometimes, a helmet and you duck for cover when the gunfire starts.  It is not a job I would even contemplate doing.
You probably need to live in Egypt to understand the (lack of) logic behind Greste's arrest. Even among some of those who support him there is a feeling that he should have been asked to leave. His reporting was apparently seen as one-sided by some Egyptians who had access to it. They did not see it as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood but as not giving enough consideration to what they felt was the other side of the story. Greste of course was about being where the action was. That makes for the more interesting news.
The West has widely condemned the coup in Egypt which saw the ousting of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy, as we understand it, does not support such moves.
Many Egyptians, even those who voted for Morsi, see it differently.  At least some of them were voting against the alternative rather than for Morsi. Offer them, in their view, a more acceptable alternative and they voted against Morsi - particularly when it became clear that the Morsi government was going to institute the restrictions of an Islamic state. Perhaps it is in that context that Greste's reporting was seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. It is difficult to tell.
What happens next is anyone's guess. There will almost certainly be an appeal. There may be a Presidential pardon of some sort. The jail term may be reduced. There may be other negotiations. There will be some sort of agreement on what can and cannot be reported and how it will be portrayed.
From the point of view of the Egyptian authorities all this will be justified. They have a country to control and an economy dependent on tourism to restore.
Greste and his colleagues have been brutally prevented from doing their job - for now. And, we all lose out.

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