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Monday, May 04, 2009

World Press Freedom Day just another day in Canberra

World Press Freedom Day yesterday served as a reminder that fortunately we don't face here the enormous challenges that journalists face in some parts of the world to stay alive and stay out of jail. UNESCO awarded its 2009 press freedom prize posthumously to Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga for his work as a newspaper editor.
"Wickrematunga was shot dead in early January as he drove to work at the Sunday Leader, a newspaper critical of the Sri Lankan government and especially of its bloody and costly war against Tamil rebels. Sri Lanka is one of the ten worst countries for press freedom, according to the Reporters Without Borders 2008 index. Other offenders include Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Burma, Cuba, Vietnam, China, Iran and Laos."

But, at another level, The Australian reports that the MEAA while acknowledging some positives, points to a failure by the Government to remove the "cloak of secrecy" that hangs around its own activities and those of the courts. (The MEAA Annual Report report on press freedom in Australia should be on the MEAA website soon- Update it's here)

As an echo of Laurie Oakes comment that the media needs to do more to get across to a broader audience why press freedom issues are of relevance, it's interesting to note that around the world leaders including President Obama acknowledged World Press Freedom Day. But nothing seems to have been said by Prime Minister Rudd, even though he had the perfect opportunity last week in a speech presenting the Wallace Brown Young Achiever Award for Journalism.He decided to stick mainly with folksy reminisces.

World Press Freedom Day does get an acknowledgement on the "values" page of the Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations and from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Just as pertinent, given Oakes' comment, is the fact that apart from his article in News publications on Saturday, the Australian report today of MEAA findings and an edited version of the Oakes speech), the only other reference to World Press Freedom Day in the print media at least was an opinion piece in another News publication, the Gold Coast Bulletin (no link available).

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