Andrew Greste, brother of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, has used a public address to implore the Australian public not to let his brother’s case fall off the radar.
Speaking at the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2014 free speech symposium, Greste told the audience that his brother’s detainment in Egypt had forced the family to take on a new life, throwing them into the world of public advocacy and international diplomacy.
In June, Peter Greste was found guilty of spreading “false and misleading news” by an Egyptian court and sentenced to seven years in prison. He had been in Egypt for just two weeks.
Despite the devastating decision, Andrew said his brother had not been “broken” by the ordeal and again rejected the Egyptian Court’s finding.
“We believe in [Peter’s] innocence, he has no axe to grind or political agenda to push… you don’t have to take my word for it, comb through his work and you’ll find that it’s true.
“Peter has remained strong throughout – obviously he’s gone through some dark patches and has had to work to overcome them, but overcome them he has.”
Thanking all those who had provided support to the family Andrew asked those concerned by his brother’s incarceration to “loudly defend” press freedoms.
“If people feel strongly about this case I’d encourage them to write to their local member of parliament,” he said.
A grain and cotton farmer, Greste told the symposium that he had pulled out of a cotton conference to be in Sydney.
Before his remarks, Human Rights Commissioner and former IPA fellow Tim Wilson took the stage, just two days after Attorney-General Georg Brandis was forced to abandon changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, which had been loudly endorsed by Wilson.
Originally scheduled as the event’s keynote speaker, the Attorney-General’s desire to enjoy his own right to free speech obviously failed him – at the 11th hour, Brandis pulled out of the symposium.
Wilson, on the other hand, promised not to hold back.
“I will speak my mind,” he said, lamenting that “the discussion for reform [of the RDA]could have been uniting and not dividing”.
While outlining his own plans for changing the Act – which would replace the prevention of offence in the RDA with a prohibition on harassment, similar to that in the Sex Discrimination Act – Wilson acknowledged that the moment for reform had now passed.
Making a typically impassioned plea for the human right that has been front and centre since the assent of the Coalition government, Wilson argued that free speech allows a society to find the “grains of gold” hidden among the mountain of good and bad ideas.
“Free speech helps us individually and collectively develop our understanding of the world,” he said.
Wilson also announced he will be touring the country as part of a Human Rights Commission ‘national rights and responsibilities’ consultation tour, which will take him outside what he called the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne triangle to speak to average Australians about free speech, freedom of assembly, and property rights.
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