Brisbane’s Courier-Mail has launched an editorial series highlighting the value of press freedom in light of the recent arrest and sentencing in Egypt of Australian journalist Peter Greste.
Titled Journalism Matters, the series started last week with journalists contributing opinion pieces, reflecting on their own experiences and that of the wider industry.
The first in the series, by ABC reporter and dual Walkley Award winner Mark Willacy, recounts his time reporting on the Iraq War in 2003 when he was arrested for filming an oil refinery from the side of the road.
“[Greste’s] conviction and imprisonment after the most farcical of show trials should remind us all that journalists put a lot on the line to do their jobs. As Peter’s case so worryingly shows, freedom can be the price of doing that job.”
Hugh Riminton recalled his capture by police in Fiji during a military coup in 1987, remarking:
“We are the irritants. Three decades of reporting from across the world leave no doubt in my mind: when it comes to the media, better a raucous, contesting noise, than silence.
“As I learnt as a young man in Fiji, as Peter Greste is learning in his Cairo prison, the freedom to report is fragile. It can be gone in a minute.”
This week, Walkley and Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year winner Paul Toohey added to the series. Toohey argued that it was often the stories of human kindness, away from the “main yarn”, that have the greatest personal impact.
He reflected on his time in Tacloban in the Philippines last November: “It is the people who share the little remaining food, or give shelter, or act with decency when all seems lost, that remind us why we should bother about all people in crisis.”
Toohey wrote that Greste might be inspired by those moments, lest he be put off his craft after such a devastating experience.
“In pausing to think of [Greste’s] pointless prison circumstance, I seek here, as a colleague, to remind him – on the doubtful chance he ever sees this story – of how it is that these background asides that live away from the main yarn are so important.”
The articles will continue with the aim of raising support for Greste and awareness of “the significance of journalism and why the freedom to tell stories really does matter.”
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