Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Pork barrelling on press freedom

Posted by occidentprone on July 7, 2008

What’s the best way to kick off an election campaign? Sweeten up the journalists covering it. 

The government of Alan Carpenter, former reporter and telly host, is raising the promise of shield laws for the media if the government is re-elected, says The Australian.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance claims to have a commitment from state Attorney-General Jim McGinty that laws to protect ethical journalists will be introduced in the first term of parliament if Labor is returned at the next election.

MEAA state secretary Michael Sinclair-Jones said protection for journalists and their sources was paramount.

“This is something that has to be addressed immediately,” he said. “It’s something totally unacceptable that journalists should be hauled off to secret inquiries and threatened with three years’ jail and $60,000 fines for doing their job properly.”

In Western Australia, journalists and others can be compelled by the Corruption and Crime Commission to attend secret hearings.

They are forbidden from telling anyone, including their employer or families, and face three years’ jail and a $60,000 fine if they do so.

The CCC also has the power to force a journalist to reveal their sources or face contempt charges.

Mr Sinclair-Jones said the push for the shield laws was because of the CCC’s activities. “It’s absolutely unprecedented,” he said.

Early yesterday, Mr McGinty said he supported the shield laws but would not be drawn on a timeline.

Note the key word “ethical” as in “laws to protect ethical journalists”. Who is judge and jury on this ethical business? The government? The CCC?

And why should press freedom be an election campaign issue instead of a basic rights issue in a modern western democracy? Like sports stadium funding and tax promises?

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3 Responses to “Pork barrelling on press freedom”

  1. Rolly said

    Newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and journalists alike need to take a good look at their own ethics-free industry before calling ‘foul’ at any investigative power.
    Their tendency to place themselves above the law and to consider themselves the ultimate arbiters of community correctness, makes their complaints in this arena the acme of hypocrisy.
    They, like politicians, advertisers and religious leaders, need to be made accountable for the myths and biases that they routinely propound, supported by selective presentation of the known facts.
    Truth would totally destroy their credibility.

  2. occidentprone said

    No matter how corrupt and unethical and greedy and biased any or all media outlets might be – we still need to preserve the concept, the freedom, of the press. This government has used The West and The Sunday Times and maybe others to say ALL media need to be curbed or monitored or whatever. Now, with bloggers and news websites we can have disparate voices – only if the laws allow it though. Maybe the media we have aren’t worth fighting for – but we need to fight for the right to a free press.

  3. Rolly said

    Yes and no.
    Perhaps we need freedom *from* the press.
    Freedom of expression is not the same thing. Blogging, web based comment nor even hand distributed printed material should be confused with “the Press”.
    The mainstream media needs to be put under the spotlight and a mandatory code of ethics put in place. Self regulation has been a total disaster.

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