Viw Magazine

  • Written by Peter Greste, Professor of Journalism and Communications, The University of Queensland
Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been held in Iran's notorious Evin prison for more than a year. DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE/

Diplomacy and hostage negotiation are both subtle businesses. The training, culture and professional instincts of diplomats and negotiators make them inclined to operate behind the scenes to solve problems.

Better to work relationships to sort things out quietly, they argue, than get all shouty in public where the messaging can get out of hand.

So it is with the case of Australian-British academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been in Ward 2-A of Iran’s notorious Evin prison since October 2018, where she is serving a 10-year sentence for “espionage”.

Read more: As pressure on Iran mounts, there is little room for quiet diplomacy to free detained Australians

The Australian government unequivocally rejects the charges as baseless. Asked by reporters what his government was doing to get her out, Prime Minister Scott Morrison vaguely said

we’re doing everything that we can do to bring her home.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne wasn’t much more forthcoming. In response to a question about Moore-Gilbert, she said recently,

Our view is that we don’t accept the charges upon which she was detained, held, charged and convicted, and we want to ensure the conditions in which she is held are appropriate.

But if, after almost a year and a half since her detention, things are still dire for the Middle East specialist, the strategy has failed spectacularly.

‘In the midst of a serious psychological problem’

In a series of handwritten letters smuggled out and published last week by the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, the academic said her “health has deteriorated significantly” and

I think I am in the midst of a serious psychological problem, I can no longer stand the pressures of living in this extremely restrictive detention ward anymore.

She describes being held in solitary confinement, with the lights on 24 hours a day and without medical attention, adequate food or phone calls to her family. In another note to the prosecutor, she points out that under Iran’s own laws, after being convicted she must be moved to a “normal” prison ward.

The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezian, who was himself held on charges of spying in the same prison wing run by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), called it “a place beyond government oversight”.

Her situation is much more dire than the (Australian) government is letting on.

So, when the traditional methods have failed so dismally to improve anything about Moore-Gilbert’s situation, surely the time has come to shift gears and get shouty to ramp up public pressure on both Australian diplomats and Iranian politicians.

Public pressure can mobilise government action

Whether they admit it or not, governments everywhere tend to respond to public uproar. In 2015, after I was released from a prison in Egypt where I had been held on terrorism charges for 13 months, I asked a European diplomat what my colleagues and I should be doing to free other colleagues who remained in jail. He responded:

Keep up the protests and the lobbying from human rights groups. Get on Twitter and Facebook; give interviews to TV and radio stations. Stay noisy.

My response was that Egyptians don’t “give a damn” about Twitter, Facebook or Human Rights Watch.

And he said,

But I and my colleagues do. And by keeping the fire burning under our backsides, you not only keep us focused, you also give us the tools to say to the Egyptians, ‘we can’t move on to other business until you sort this situation out’.

It is risky to draw direct comparisons between our case and Moore-Gilbert’s. But it was clear that in our campaign, the extraordinary public pressure gave then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop the political weight she needed to mobilise more muscular diplomatic and consular resources than usual.

It pushed both her and the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to speak publicly and forcefully in favour of our release. The attention pushed the Egyptians to keep us in better conditions than other “terrorists”. It created space for a more coordinated international response. And in the end it proved too much for Cairo to resist.

Read more: Peter Greste released: good news from the Middle East

The dangers of negotiations

To be clear, it is always difficult for governments to balance their responsibility to help a citizen in trouble in a foreign land against broader national interests, particularly when it involves a strategically important country like Iran.

But if the Australian government is involved in any negotiations or “bargaining” to free Moore-Gilbert, it risks validating the Iranian strategy and encouraging more hostage-taking.

In this case, we still don’t know why Iran is holding Moore-Gilbert or what it might be asking for in exchange for her release. But given the escalating tensions between Tehran and the West, she is almost certainly being used as a bargaining chip.

If her family, colleagues and the public continue to heed the diplomats’ advice and remain quiet, and if Morrison and Payne keep tiptoeing around the issue, it is almost certain nothing will change.

Prof Peter Greste is UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, and a founding director of the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom.

Authors: Peter Greste, Professor of Journalism and Communications, The University of Queensland

Read more

Four Steps for Creating Smart Financial Habits

The last few years have been highly stressful for society as a whole. And as it happened, the COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the financial wo...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

Decoding Dairy: 5 Reasons Why You May Wish to Go Dairy-Free

Thinking of giving up dairy? While no two people are the same in terms of how their bodies respond to dairy, there certainly are commona... - avatar

Help! I’m Out of Fuel, What Should I Do?

Gas prices worldwide are reaching the highest they've ever been. It's getting more tempting to push the limits of our empty lights. It ...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

Northern Adelaide Plumber shares his most common jobs

A general plumber is a professional who can perform a wide range of plumbing and heating services for both domestic and commercial clien...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

Gas Vs Electric Cooktops: Which Should I Get?

If you're looking to buy a new stove, you've probably been told that gas stoves and electric stoves have their advantages and disadvanta... - avatar

Online Activities to treat that stuck-indoors Aussie lockdown boredom

While we wait for Australian quarantines & lockdowns to reemerge in our lives somewhat like unwanted but old companions, the major p... - avatar

Buying and selling cryptocurrency: simple rules

There are several ways to buy crypto online:* Simple exchange * Centralized exchange * Decentralized exchange Simple exchanges are small s...

Anna Koretskaya - avatar Anna Koretskaya

Moving to a New City Alone? 5 Tips on Creating a New Hometown

Did you pack up and move away from home? Did you brave the big, ugly world on your own? There's nothing any braver than leaving the nes...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

6 Practical Ways to Get Your Family Into Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is one of the main aspects of a healthy, happy, long, and balanced life. And even though we all know that we should eat b...

Lilly Miller - avatar Lilly Miller

5 Tax Benefits Every Entrepreneur In Australia Must Know About

Like everywhere else, Australia encourages its public citizens and foreigners to invest and start a business in the country. However, yo... - avatar

How AI and chatbots are changing the BPO industry in the Philippines

Over the last decade, the global business process outsourcing industry, has grown exponentially. Many large businesses regularly contract ...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

What are the disadvantages of trading ETFs?

Most people are familiar with the advantages of trading ETFs, such as the low costs, flexibility, and tax efficiency. There are also som... - avatar

The relationship between mining and the Australian economy

Australia is a land rich in natural beauty. It’s also rich in natural resources, which means mining plays a huge role in the health of... - avatar

Keeping Clean in Your Old Age

Seniors should be more careful about their hygiene. They are more vulnerable to disease, so keeping clean will ensure their health. Howe... - avatar

Best Ways to Exchange Currency While Traveling Abroad

One trick you might never get from anywhere else about traveling abroad; get the most of foreign exchange currency before starting your ...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

Offering excellence for each of its products is Ozzy Tyres

The renowned Australian company since the past year has ventured into manufacturing products and, in only five months, made outstanding ...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

4 Effective Ways to Balance Your Fitness Goals with a Busy Schedule

It’s not always easy to stay fit, especially when your schedule is tight. After all, from preparing meals to working out regularly, fi... - avatar

Breathtaking Shipwrecks in Australia: Diving the HMAS Brisbane

The HMAS Brisbane is one of the most breathtaking shipwrecks in Australia to dive. Teeming with organisms of all shapes and sizes, the h... - avatar

E-signature: choose the best electronic document signing options

Modern technology does not stand still, and therefore there are programs to optimize work in the business segment. Software is indispens... - avatar

How to Calculate the Cost of a Hot Water System

A new hot water heater for your home is not a small purchase. While the costs can be difficult to cover, hot water is essential for your... - avatar

Writers Wanted

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion