Monday, 2 February 2015

Peter Greste is a

lucky man. It may not seem like that at first glance. Indeed 400 days in an Egyptian prison was undoubtedly one of those "hell on earth" experiences that the rest of us have no desire to go through.  But, he is still a lucky man. He could still be there. He could have died there. He could have been left there for another 40 years.
Greste will have some idea, but only some, of the delicate diplomatic work that eventually released him. It will have been very delicate indeed - right from the first very cautious approach until the plane landed in a foreign country and he was on foreign soil and not likely to be re-arrested and returned to prison.
There are some, perhaps even many, in Egypt who did not want him to be granted his freedom. Many Egyptians saw his reporting as supporting terrorism - not, as he would have it, reporting the overthrow of a democratically elected regime.
Friends in Egypt have told me that many people were disturbed by the tone of the Al Jazeera reports. There were serious questions raised about the conduct of the previous election and the violence which went with it. They have more concerns about the present regime too. 
What they are aware of however is that Egypt cannot afford to have a strict Islamic regime. Their economy depends on tourism and tourists will not go in the same numbers. Many young people are simply too well educated to go along with the restrictions which would be imposed by a strict Islamic regime and Sharia law. There would be even more dissent than there is now. Closing Egypt's borders would be well nigh impossible. Close the Suez? Shut down the Nile? Patrol the Mediterranean coastline? Have vastly increased numbers trying to reach Europe? I think not.
I wonder what the media will have managed to learn from the Greste case? My guess is that it will be very little - if anything at all. Greste and his family will thank the government (and undoubtedly be genuinely grateful) but the media will simply say "more could have been done to secure his release much earlier". The media, simply because it suits them, will try to suggest that the government did less than it could have. Given a chance the political opposition will give no more than a grudging backhanded  acknowledgment - and only because they know they might one day be in a similar position.
The media will continue to tell a story in the manner which creates the most "news" because the ability to "sell" the story depends on creating the news rather than reporting it.
Greste will write a book. It will probably be a "best-seller" but whether it will be fact or fiction is another story.

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