Sunday, May 13, 2007

Australian Media & Freedom of Speech

Last week's reports of rival Australian media organizations cooperating in a "fight a steadily declining level of free speech they say has seriously eroded Australia's democracy". (

In Australia State and Federal governments, both Labor and Coalition (conservative)employ ever-more armies of media spin-doctors to manipulate, manage and control the media. But even worse, the very Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, designed to make governments more open and accountable, are now being used to restrict the information given by governments.

However, the problem is deeper than that:
  • Certainly, we must have robust FOI laws, and these laws should make it difficult to restrict information, except for that which is classified under the Official Secrets Act.
  • Parliamentary accountability and responsibility is almost a distant memory, at both State and Federal levels, under both Labor and Liberal-National Governments.
  • The Prime Minister, State Premiers, Ministers, members of lower and upper houses of Parliaments use the media for 5s & 10s "media grabs" and issue Press Releases.
  • There are media organizations that simply seek the "sensational", to the point of entrapment. We need to be protected from such tabloid behaviours, especially from some commercial "current affairs" stories. For example, Victorian Police have been asked to investigate the role of Channel 9's "A Current Affair" car in a tragic accident involving a truck in the Domain Tunnel in Melbourne, in April 2007.
I'd like to suggest that the media include in all stories that involve governments: "The following is an announcement/assertion by ... (insert Government / Political Party/Name & Party)" or "The Following story was provided by Government Media spin-doctors"

Governments and individuals feed the media only what they think will be of self-benefit: rarely is such information given for the public benefit. Indeed, any information that informs the public what is really happening seems to be stifled by the abuse of FOI laws, by governments, for the benefit of politicians and political parties. Voters should not only be excused for being cynical, they have good reason to be.

The Analyst