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The First Casualty

With special guest:

  • Peter Greste

Our guest is Peter Greste who in the last two decades of reporting has journeyed through wars in some of the world’s most dangerous countries but does not describe himself as a serious risk taker. Over the years he has developed another sense of when he needs to take extra precautions for his own safety giving his family a certain degree of comfort. In any event there has always been an understanding that foreign correspondents are seen as outsiders which presents a way out of sticky situations.

When Peter arrived in Egypt in 2013 he had never been arrested for anything and he was planning to be in the country for three weeks doing what he called “vanilla journalism” meaning nothing controversial. All that changed after the dreaded knock on the door when a group of heavy set men shovelled him backwards and started searching the room for evidence of something, anything, they could accuse him with.

Peter’s book The First Casualty: From the front lines of the global war on journalism is a gripping account of life in a foreign prison and the role of his family both in Egypt and on the world scene. From inside the prison family members helped smuggle out letters and notes and they led a social media onslaught of three billion tweets to get him and his colleagues from Al Jazeera released.

When the trial started, the world could see Peter in the courtroom but locked in a cage. He had an uncertain future and could easily have ended up as “collateral damage” in the war being engaged in by both governments and insurgents for favourable news coverage.

Unknown to Peter the leaders of Australia, the USA, Latvia and others intervened on his behalf with the Egyptian government. Peter meanwhile relied on keeping his mind and body active and not giving in to the sense of overwhelming injustice. There was also the opposite worry that he might succumb to a feeling of guilt, a feeling that because of past actions he deserved to be where he was.

There are many lessons to be learned from Peter’s experience. Anyone who has been through a court process, anyone who has been separated unjustly from his family, anyone who has had a fight with a larger adversary such as the government will draw from Peter’s strength and wisdom on how to handle adverse conditions. And with Peter being an experienced professional journalist who expresses himself so well you will not want to turn away.

Peter Greste

Peter Greste studied journalism at the Queensland University of Technology. His work as a foreign correspondent for Reuters, the BBC and Al Jazeera has taken him around the world. He has lived in London, Belgrade, Africa, South America and Afghanistan. Peter received a Peabody Award in 2011 for his documentary on Somalia and the Australian Human Rights Medal in 2015 for his work as an advocate of a free press. Peter is regarded as one of Australia’s finest correspondents widely renowned for his courage, integrity and fervent campaigning for press freedom everywhere.

Song selection by our guest: Water No Get Enemy by Fela Kuti

Note: This program is an encore presentation of the one aired on 2 Nov 2017.

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