Media Freedom and the War on Terror: the Amazing Shrinking Space

“Free press is central for free society,” says Peter Greste, an award winning Latvian-Australian journalist. He’s considered to be symbol of freedom of speech. After being arrested by Egyptian authorities in late 2013 and released afterwards, he received Royal Television Society award for his sacrifice to journalism.

Greste believes a lot changed after 9/11 attacks in media world. “George Bush declaimed – you’re either with us or terrorists. (..) Media is supposed to be independent, it is not supposed to take particular side,” he says. After this statement of former president of U.S.A. journalists lost their role as observers, believes journalist. Greste explains that media became the battlefield of ideas, and journalists – targets. “The war on terror is an abstract concept”.

Journalist presented graphics about freedom of press throughout time. It showed that since 1995 media freedom has decreased, especially in Eastern and Southern Europe, and South America (Freedom House data). Number of journalists being killed is relatively high (Committee to Protect Journalists data). Also, number of imprisoned journalists is high. Greste explained that those are mostly online media representatives, because government sees them as biggest threat. Data showed that large part of imprisoned journalists are the ones who have made anti-state materials.

Greste introduced audience with an example of media freedom being threatened today in considerably censor-free regions. Australia seems to have great freedom of press. Though, law changes in recent years may put a shadow over that. “We have legitimate right and responsibility to know what is going on,” believes Greste. Journalists can be put in prison for five years, according to Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). Criteria for being a prison-material are not public. “If you’re a reporter doing an investigative story, you can never know when you are breaking rules, according to SIO,” says Greste.

Holding to professional standards and sticking to ethical journalism is foundation of great journalism, Greste stresses. Being released from Egyptian prison is proof of ethics relevance, he believes. ”Public and political support was crucial in this case,” he says.

By: Anna Udre