Imprisoned Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste talks to INSI about media safety (International News Safety Institute)

Peter Greste1

When Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste and his two colleagues were imprisoned in Egypt on terrorism charges, media safety was cast into the spotlight.

The Australian spent 400 days in jail, following a trial that sparked an international outcry from politicians, diplomats and celebrities who were suddenly made aware of the vulnerability of reporters around the world.

Speaking to INSI, Greste emphasised the importance of making journalism safety a global conversation.

See the interview here.

“Although we’ve got a common interest, there aren’t common standards around the world and I think what we need to do is to try and expand this. What we all think of as press freedom and journalism safety in Europe doesn’t apply in the Middle East, and yet European journalists are working in the Middle East and vice versa. We need to make sure this is a conversation that crosses borders.”

Journalism safety has become even more paramount as the war on terror is played out in the media and journalists find themselves becoming the targets.

“It was always a dangerous business,” said Greste. “But what’s happened now is that journalism has become fair game for both sides: whether it’s governments who are trying to clamp down on freedom of speech issues […] or whether it’s from groups themselves who’ve decided they don’t want or like the kind of ideology that they believe journalists are a part of.”

During Greste and his colleagues’ imprisonment, a social media campaign calling for their immediate release went viral, with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff making more than three billion impressions on Twitter.

“What was extraordinary was the extent to which the public got behind our particular case, the extraordinary way that our colleagues got involved and the extraordinary way politicians and diplomats all over the world lined up in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen in any other situation in the history of the media.”

Greste believes the level of support generated for him and his two colleagues shows what can be achieved when the industry pulls together and when “powerful decision makers” understand the safety issues journalists all around the world face every day as a result of doing their job.

“I think INSI’s a great place to start. It’s an industry organisation that was set up by industry groups to try and bring together a lot of the safety and security protocols and try to improve the way we handle journalists’ safety.”

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