UQ media freedom-fighter honoured

3 May 2018

Internationally acclaimed journalist Peter Greste has been awarded an Australian Press Council Press Freedom Medal in Sydney today (Thursday 3 May).

The World Press Freedom Day presentation recognises Professor Greste – The University of Queensland’s UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication – for his major contribution to furthering the causes of free speech and freedom of the press.  

Professor Greste was one of two medal recipients, with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) Director Gerard Ryle honoured for leading a collaborative investigative journalism network encompassing more than 200 journalists and 100 media organisations in 70 countries.

Press Council Chair Neville Stevens said the selection committee agreed unanimously that the two recipients demonstrated all of the qualities the medals were meant to celebrate.

“Peter’s work as a courageous foreign correspondent is well-known, but his more recent work as a vocal press freedom advocate and communications scholar is less known – though no less laudable,” Mr Stevens said.

Professor Greste spent two decades reporting from the frontline in the world’s most dangerous countries before making headlines following his own incarceration in an Egyptian prison.

“The Press Council’s selection committee felt that Peter’s decision to use his high public profile—gained through the extreme hardships he himself endured as a prisoner in an Egyptian jail resulting from his own journalistic work—to become a defender of press freedom and the safety of journalists deserved to be recognised and rewarded.

“He speaks out frequently and eloquently whenever necessary to remind us all of the vulnerability of journalists and of free speech, and that we must all be constantly on guard against the various threats,” he said.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the award was highly prestigious and congratulated Professor Greste on becoming a recipient.

“I congratulate Peter and hope his presence at UQ will infuse similar courage in journalists of the future,” he said.

Professor Greste said the Press Freedom Medal was a great personal honour.

“This award recognises the importance of the continued fight to defend media freedom and the safety of journalists at a time when both are under enormous pressure,” he said.

The Press Council has awarded the Press Freedom Medal to people affiliated with the council intermittently since 1999. It was revitalised in 2016 when the Council opened it up to journalists, legal practitioners, community activists or advocates who helped ensure the preservation of free speech, press freedom and open and transparent government.

The awards, presented at Twitter’s Sydney headquarters, followed by a panel discussion featuring Professor Greste, Kate McClymont (Fairfax Media), and Michael Cameron (News Corp Australia), with Behrouz Boochani (an Iranian journalist and refugee on Manus Island) and Gerard Ryle via video links.

Media: Australian Press Council Director of Research and Communications Michael Rose, 0451 978 276, michael.rose@presscouncil.org.au or Kristen Johnston (HASS Communications) 3346 1633, k.johnston@uq.edu.au