The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists has released Going After Whistleblowers, Going After Journalism – its annual report into the state of press freedom in Australia.
The 2015 report catalogues MEAA’s concerns after attacks on press freedom escalated dramatically in Australia and across the region. The report was released in the countdown to UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3 and just prior to tonight’s Press Freedom Australia Dinner in Sydney.
The 2015 press freedom report highlights MEAA’s concerns over the government’s three tranches of national security laws that were passed by the Parliament with by-partisan support. It also deals with the failure of whistleblower protection, the undermining of journalist shield laws, redundancies across the industry and the funding cuts to public broadcasting. The report also looks at press freedom concerns for Australian journalists abroad including Peter Greste and Alan Morison. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the murder of the Balibo Five and Roger East in Timor Leste.
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said: “This has been a dire 12 months for the state of press freedom in Australia — for journalists, for the communities we serve and for sources that trust us to tell their stories. Public interest journalism relies on whistleblowers, the confidential sources that provide crucial information to journalists — sometimes placing both at great risk.
“The politicians who ignored press freedom concerns about the raft of national security laws failed to understand how confidential sources and public interest journalism are linked. If you are going after whistleblowers, you are going after journalism. The way forward is a complete, comprehensive review of Australia’s counter-terror legislation and a concomitant review of Australia intelligence, surveillance and law enforcement agencies. The aim should be to introduce meaningful media exemptions from the excesses of these laws so that the vital work of public interest journalism can continue unheeded,” Murphy said.
“There must also be a rethinking of the role of public disclosure, freedom of information, open government and whistleblowers in our society so that these things are not feared, undermined and even attacked but are embraced as a necessary part of a healthy functioning democracy. To do otherwise means the war on journalism that has become a subset of the war on terror is fought and lost on the home front. And that is too dreadful an outcome to contemplate,” he said.
The 2015 press freedom report also examines the threats to press freedom across the Asia-Pacific region which is now the world’s deadliest with 39 journalists killed in 2014. Of these, 35 were directly targeted for their work. These grim statistics account for nearly a third of all journalists killed around the world.
The report includes contributions from journalists and journalism academics and includes an excerpt from Peter Greste’s national press club address.
The 2015 report can be viewed on the dedicated web site: www.pressfreedom.org.au