On World Press Freedom Day 2017, the Australian Press Council is calling on media organisations, editors and journalists in Australia to stand firm against the alarming erosion of access to information, privacy and protection of sources.
Among the many current threats to press freedom that the Press Council identifies are:
- outdated and inappropriate defamation legislation;
- overly broad 'anti-terrorism' laws;
- secrecy laws that over-classify government information;
- courts too willing to issue suppression orders;
- metadata retention laws;
- laws criminalising whistleblowing;
- 'ag-gag' laws that inhibit reporting of animal cruelty;
- underfunding of Office of the Australian Information Commissioner; and
- continuing government resistance to legitimate Freedom of Information requests.
"In light of the litany of threats to free speech, press freedom and to journalists themselves ... it is now, more than ever, time for media outlets to work energetically and cooperatively together with the Australian Press Council to safeguard these pillars of our democracy," Council Chair David Weisbrot said.
Professor Weisbrot said that examples of this erosion continue to multiply: “The Press Council notes with great dismay the Australian government’s decision to restrict access by student journalists and community media to its budget lock-up this year. Ironically, this was announced on the eve of World Press Freedom Day."
Press Council Executive Director John Pender is in Jakarta as a delegate to the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2017 conference, where he will continue efforts to build the relationships between world press councils that help safeguard press freedom.
Professor Weisbrot will be in Timor-Leste on 9-10 May to attend an international conference celebrating the first anniversary of that country's press council.
Some 200 delegates at the conference, 'The Role of Press Councils Toward a Democratic Society', will discuss, among other things, threats to press freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.
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