Opinion

Press freedom vital

By Ashlea Witoslawski

What began as a television campaign on Sunday night and continued onto the front pages of Monday’s major newspapers clearly displayed many media outlets’ fears and frustrations at facing criminalisation for simply doing their job.

Each morning as I enter the newsroom, I quickly stop to pick up the rolled newspapers strewn across the entrance to the building.

Yesterday was no different, however my eye was quickly drawn to the unusual addition of thick, dark lines within the plastic cling film.

Taking to the internet, it didn’t take long to become consumed by a Twittersphere deep dive, following the trending #righttoknow.

Showcasing a rare form of unity, the redacted front pages were published across the country’s primary newspapers to take a stand for press freedom.

It also highlighted the fight against new imposed restrictions on what a journalist can report and increasing government secrecy in Australia.

Co-ordinated by the Right To Know coalition, the campaign shines a light on the tighter laws imposed by the Federal Government, the fear of criminal charges faced by whistleblowers and journalists and police raids and court battles that affect personal and professional freedoms.

According to The Australian, about 75 laws have been passed by the federal parliament over the last two decades, creating a power imbalance between police and intelligence agencies and the media.

This erosion of media freedom does a disservice to those in the industry by watering down the quality of content and shaking one’s confidence in their reporting abilities.

This is not only a hindrance to journalists, but also a concern for the general public in their ability to access authentic, transparent information about our government which prides itself on being a strong democratic nation.

According to a survey conducted by the Right to Know coalition this month, 87 per cent of respondents believed it was important for Australia to be a free and open democracy however, only 37 per cent believed that currently described Australia.

Eighty-eight per cent agreed people who call out wrongdoings are critical to keeping the government accountable and should be protected and 80 per cent said whistleblowers should not be treated like criminals.

This is an issue that affects us all.

No matter if you consume news daily from an array of media outlets or infrequently through social media, you are entitled to know the truth and to feel you can share your truth in return.

Media outlets and journalists should not be treated like criminals and when they are, it makes me wonder if such a strong reaction is instigated to steer attention away from the bigger issue at hand.

Don’t be distracted and don’t be fooled.

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