10 daring thinkers who defied the rules

Peter Greste, journalist

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4. Power of the mindset

Peter Greste

Peter Greste knows firsthand the truth of the creed “people are stronger than they realise”. 

The Australian-born journalist spent 400 days in detention in Egypt, sometimes crammed into a tiny cell with 15 other men or more often in solitary confinement – “a dungeon, a concrete box”. His anxiety levels were at fever pitch, yet a change of mindset kept him strong. 

Greste’s story begins on 29 December 2013, when his Cairo hotel room was ransacked by “eight to 10 guys” and his notebooks and laptop seized. At the time, Greste was reporting for the Al Jazeera network on the troubled transition of political power in Egypt.

Authorities charged him with financing, advising and being a member of a terrorist organisation, broadcasting false news to undermine national security and carrying transmission equipment without a licence. 

“Every single one of those allegations was a complete and utter fabrication,” says Greste.

Nevertheless, he was sentenced to seven years’ jail and the next few months proved to be his greatest mental test.

“A colleague said to me, ‘you will not survive prison unless you can make peace with yourself’,” he says. “Meditation saved my sanity as it allowed me to step outside myself. I also applied meaning to what I was going through.”

Greste was released without explanation and deported to Australia in February 2015.

“Those 400 days weren’t wasted,” he says. “I’m far stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. Everybody is far stronger than they think.”

Read the June 2020 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.