Parents of Australian journalists Peter Greste say Australian government is doing what it can

L:R Stuart Washington, MEAA, Lois Greste and Juris Greste.

L:R Stuart Washington, Lois Greste and Juris Greste.

The parents of jailed Australian-born Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste say they believe the Australian Government is doing what it can to secure the release of their son and and his two colleagues, who have now spent 125 days in an Egyptian jail.

In an emotional press conference, Greste’s father Juris Greste said they would not rest until their son was free. “Our feeling is that the government has worked hard and we certainly believe that everything is being done to secure Peter and his colleagues’ release,” said Juris Greste.

“By this stage, in this sad affair we have come to realise there are so many complexities and so many layers in this whole matter that it is truly difficult to know which approach might be effective in assisting the cause (of their release). We are not leaving a stone or even pebble unturned. As parents we cannot rest until Peter is out and exonerated.”

The appeal comes ahead of tomorrow’s International UNESCO World Press Freedom day, which also happens to be the day Greste and his co-accused are due back in front of a criminal court in Egypt.

Greste is in prison along with Canadian-Egyptian former CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local producer Baher Mohamed who are among 20 people on trial in Egypt on charges of “airing false news” and possessing links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera rejects all of the charges and Greste has himself previously described the case as “an abuse against journalism and freedom of speech”.

Stuart Washington, who heads the media section of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), said despite lobbying from the family of the prisoners, Al-Jazeera, the Australian and Canadian governments and more broadly from an international #freeAJstaff movement it is difficult to know how the issue is being interpreted by Egyptian authorities.

“It is very hard to know if you are talking into a great big well and whether things are echoing and being heard (by the Egyptian Government),” said Washington, who is president of the media section of the MEAA. “But we have to give credit to Tony Abbott on making a phone call on this and taking it to the very highest levels, and those things have happened, but the Egyptian judicial system to us is a bit of a black box.”

During a press conference at the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance headquarters this afternoon, Greste’s father also read a message that his son had written from an Egyptian prison.

Part of Greste’s message read: “We are of course deeply moved by the outpouring of support but we also understand that this isn’t about the three of us. Nor is it about the wider and far more difficult issue of freedom of speech here in Egypt. Our case has become emblematic of the freedom of the press worldwide.

“What often gets lost is the fundament truth that the best defence against insecurity is a vibrant, open, noisy and yes at times even rabid press, willing to snap at the extremists with as much enthusiasm as tearing strips off the authorities. That is why even in a place as apparently stable and open as Australia we must never take press freedom for granted.”

Greste’s parents and siblings have been campaigning for his immediate release since his arrest on December 29 last year.

The case has drawn global interest as the trial has dragged on. Their trial has been adjourned until tomorrow, when they will make their seventh appearance before an Egyptian criminal court.

Greste’s parents Juris and Lois Greste will make a special appearance at The Walkley Foundation’s annual Press Freedom dinner tonight, where Juris will deliver his son’s message to Australian journalists.

MEAA will also mark World Press Freedom day with the release of its report on press freedom in Australia, Secrecy and Surveillance, addressing “problematic” media access to asylum seekers under the new government.

Federal secretary Chris Warren said the report also highlights recent threats to the ABC’s editorial independence and funding and the implications of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks for relations between journalists and sources.

“The report also looks at the revelations of Edward Snowden regarding widespread data surveillance and the illegal misuse of the date collected and shared among foreign intelligence agencies and the implications arising from the harassment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport,” he said.

Jack Fisher 

Update – Over the weekend Greste was again refused bail. Read the story here on the Sydney Morning Herald. 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.