• Peter Greste sentenced to 7 years in an Egyptian prison for reporting the news
Australian journalist Peter Greste has been sentenced to seven years in an Egyptian prison for doing his job. The Feed's Patrick Abboud looks at Greste's case and the situation in Egypt.
Airdate: 
Monday, June 23, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

The fate of detailed Australian journalist Peter Greste has just been handed down in an Egyptian courtroom. He's been sentenced to seven years in prison - less than the anticipated 15 years but still a huge blow for him, his family, and journalists worldwide.

The Australian Government has condemned the decision with foreign minister Julie Bishop saying:

"The Australian Government is shocked at the verdict in the Peter Greste case. We are deeply dismayed by the fact that a sentence has been imposed and we are appalled by the severity of it."

Greste's two brothers were there in support and high security surrounded the proceedings.

Journalists at the trial say today is the biggest turnout of diplomats and media they have seen so far with at least 150 people present and around 20 cameras.

Greste is an award winning correspondent with Qatar's state owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

In December - along with two of his colleagues - he was accused of aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood by spreading false news and doctoring footage. Peter's been held in an Egyptian prison ever since.

His voice silenced for most of what has been a long and arduous trial.

Peter's case sparked an international outcry for press freedom.

Tim Palmer is a former ABC Correspondent to the Middle East. He says Egypt was always one of the worst places to work as a journalist.

"Mechanically this government has always, instinctively, been against journalism,' says Palmer. "At this sensitive period for them when they're trying to snuff out the opposition it seems that their first step is to snuff out any coverage of the opposition."

Last week Peter Greste's parents made a final call for his release.

"We've always backed Peter's, I guess, his case and his innocence and we're very confident that he'll be exonerated," said Peter's brother Andrew Greste.

This morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott shared a conversation he had with newly elected Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"I assured him as a former journalist myself, that Peter Greste would have been reporting the Muslim Brotherhood not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, because that's what Australian journalists do," Mr Abbott told Sunrise.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters since the army ousted the Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi from power in July last year.

Since then at least 16,000 people have been arrested - brotherhood leaders, students, academics and the instigators of the revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Professor Amin Saikal the Director of the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies says the situation in Egypt won't change any time soon.

"I don't think that we can expect the crackdown to really substantially subside," says Professor Saikal. "One cannot really divorce the Peter Greste case from the complexity which has arisen in the relationship between Qatar and Egypt."

It's difficult to say how many journalists are currently held in foreign prisons.

But the Committee to Protect journalists tells us that as of December 2013:

There's 211 journalists imprisoned worldwide. Turkey is the worst jailer with 40 incarcerated, followed by Iran with 35 journos behind bars, and China who is holding 32 journalists prisoner.

Prosecutors have reportedly offered no evidence to support the charges against Greste.

The Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says Egypt remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

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