Peter Greste calls for universal charter
Thursday 26 March, 2015 A universal charter along the lines of the human rights convention should be set up to establish a gold standard for press freedom, the freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste said yesterday.
With moral rather than legal authority, it would go beyond national jurisdictions to set out rights and responsibilities of governments and the media, and define how the relationship should work. "It could be used as a kind of a benchmark by which both of us could be measured."
Greste said the idea had come from Mohamed Fahmy as they sat in an Egyptian jail discussing how to protect other journalists from their fate. The pair and their colleague Baher Mohamed were arrested at the end of 2013 and subsequently jailed for aiding a terrorist organisation - the Muslim Brotherhood. The convictions were overturned in January and Greste was deported home to Australia last month. Fahmy and Mohamed have also been released on bail and are now sitting through a retrial in which Greste is still a defendant.
Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Greste said that attacks on press freedom and on journalists had been increasing since the start of the "war on terror".
"It almost feels like a kind of globalised McCarthyism, where simply invoking terrorism is enough in some cases to get away literally with murder. In this new world, to simply ask questions about the conflict or to seriously investigate either extremism or the government’s handling of it is to make yourself a target,” he said. “The trouble for us journalists is that in this conflict there is no neutral turf, no safe ground from which to report. In effect, what it has done is to make the media the battleground.”
Greste noted the way that journalists all over the world had joined the campaign to free the Al Jazeera prisoners and also that the media and governments had worked together to secure his release. He hoped to harness that sort of unity to push forward the charter idea - even though he acknowledged that it was in its infancy and was regarded by some with a deal of cynicism.
You can see the full speech on the video above. The section about the charter starts at 17:56.
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