Greste says jailing sends global message on freedoms

This article was originally published in 2014.

Australian journalist Peter Greste has declared his detention with al-Jazeera colleagues in an Egyptian jail is a powerful symbol of press freedom worldwide.

In a statement from his prison cell on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Greste said he was “deeply moved and strengthened” by the growing wave of international support for their case.

Greste – who has been detained since December 2013 – has denied charges of spreading false news and supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement.

“Our case has become emblematic of the freedom of the press worldwide,” he said.

“What began as a campaign to put down Islamic militancy has been extended to everyone who in the government’s words spreads the ideology of terror.

“If by arresting us, the government sought to send a message to journalists both foreign and local working here, then the campaign for our release has sent an unequivocal response.”

Greste said muzzling the press was “an abuse of basic universally accepted social rights and responsibilities — the right to speak freely and openly coupled with the media’s responsibility to question, interrogate and challenge those in power”.

“What often gets lost is the fundamental 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.”

He added that press freedom was now being defended “in a way that would have been unimaginable before our arrest”.

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