Colleagues and supporters of Australian journalist Peter Greste gathered on Thursday to demand his immediate release from detention by Egypt’s military government.
The protest in Martin Place was just one of 30 around the world in support of Al-Jazeera [independent Middle Eastern] news agency staff arrested in Cairo in late November. A social media campaign with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff now has about 250 million impressions on Twitter.
Greste and his Al-Jazeera colleagues are accused by Egyptian authorities of “airing false news” and “assisting terrorists”. If found guilty of those charges, they could serve up to seven years in jail.
The federal secretary of Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Chris Warren, spoke out at the rally urging the Prime Minister to appeal personally for the release of Greste and other journalists detained.
“This is a global day of action for journalists detained in Egypt. It requires a global response. We call on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to personally appeal to Field Marshal el-Sisi and demand the release of all the journalists detained in Egyptian prisons for their journalism, including our colleague Peter Greste.”
He told the growing crowd: “We’re here today to show our support for freedom: the freedom of our communities to be informed; the right for people to know what governments do in their name; the freedom of the media to scrutinise the powerful and hold them to account; the freedom to shine a light on the truth and the freedom of journalists to do their job without fear, without harassment and without intimidation. Journalism is not a crime. Journalism is not terrorism,” he said.
Last month, Greste wrote from his prison cell: “As a journalist, I am committed to defending a fundamental freedom of the press that no one in my profession can credibly work without. One that is deemed vital to the proper functioning of any open democracy, including Egypt’s.”
Al Jazeera has urged people from all backgrounds to join the rally and support the social media campaign using the hashtag #FreeAJstaff. – Report and photos by Jessica Ankomah
Top photo shows protesters at the Martin Place rally.