Peter and I were colleagues in Al Jazeera’s Nairobi office for almost two years. He joined the bureau a few months after I made the move from London.
However, Peter wasn’t new to the region, and was already a respected and established East African journalist, having worked in Kenya for the BBC and lived on the coast for a number of years. We quickly got into a rhythm of work and trips; we were like ships that passed in the night. He would arrive back in the office dusty and exhausted after weeks in the bush, and I would be packed and ready on my way out to the airport.
When Peter was around for a few days, he would often bring in home-made brownies, offering them to colleagues who were trying desperately to diet, with a mischievous grin on his face. Peter and I would often talk about recipes. He loved to cook, and one of his favourite pastimes was hosting friends on his garden porch.
Peter of course loves working in television, but he isn’t a fan of the medium. He prefers to read a good book, and one would often find him hunched over the latest read on “Africa”. His knowledge and contacts in the region enabled him to give great insight and analysis. Last year, Peter, Mohammed Adow, and I covered the election in Kenya. The media, and in particular foreign outlets, were under immense scrutiny, with our every word monitored and nit-picked.
Peter’s stories both on television and the web were a journalistic lesson in how to approach the job with integrity. He reported on the victims of ethnic killings, and questioned some of the bizarre manifestos being presented by some of the political parties.
Often journalists get caught in the trap of reporting only on the what and where. Peter, however, always asked the “why?” as well. While covering the Somali election together in 2012, I received some exclusive information that had serious implications for one of the candidates. Peter asked why we had received this information now. He was rightly cautious, wanting to get confirmation from multiple sources before the network went with the story. He also asked the “why?” in his reporting from South Sudan, questioning whether the conflict there could be interpreted as having solely ethnic roots.
I left Nairobi in June last year, but Peter and I were briefly reunited in September, under terrible circumstances, in the aftermath of the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. Again, Peter was cautious with his reporting, questioning the authorities’ take on what was going on inside.
Peter’s letters from inside Cairo’s Tora prison have given the world some insight into what he must be going through. Peter has managed to remain steely, and magnanimous at the same time. I would expect nothing less.
Follow Nazanine Moshiri on Twitter: @nazaninemoshiri