After being held in an Egyptian prison for exactly 400 days, Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, has been released to return to Australia. In what was merely a rumour 48 hours ago, Greste has now been released under a new Egyptian law that allows foreign prisoners to be deported back to their home country. At the time of writing, Greste is with his brother, Michael, in Cyprus, due to head back to Australia soon. There is no word as to whether Greste’s colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian native Baher Mohamed, will be released from the Cairo prison. Peter Greste’s family recognise and are deeply concerned of the wellbeing of his colleagues who are still being held, and have confirmed that Greste will not rest until the two other Al Jazeera journalists are also freed.
This is huge news for not only journalism in Australia and worldwide, but it’s brilliant news for the entire fight for human rights. Why are we not celebrating? Is the NFL’s Superbowl shadowing the importance of Greste’s release and distracting everyone from what we should be celebrating? Or are we unenthused because there is now no Australian citizen being detained and as such, we no longer have something to be outraged by? It’s something that’s become more noticeable with the emergence of internet-based activism – a situation becomes popular and more often than not viral online, and everyone jumps onboard to support said cause. Then something else of viral-proportions happens, and the interest is moved. It’s uncomfortable to accept, but it’s how the populous seems to work in the online age.
We saw it most recently with the #illridewithyou movement after the Sydney hostage situation in Martin Place. Social media – especially Twitter – was awash with users supporting the idea that they were happy to ride in solidarity with anyone who felt uncomfortable on public transport, no matter their race or religion. Are these people still happy to do so now, or are they content to sit and stare out the window?
Back to Greste, though. The media have put grabs of Greste’s parents speaking to the press about the release of their son. Cue cut to his mother sighing ‘We’re just so glad this is all over’. But we need to remember that this isn’t over. It’s not going to be over until Mohamed Famhy and Baher Mohamed are given the freedom they deserve. Journalism is not a crime, and that should never be forgotten.
Feature image: AP/ CPJ Tumblr