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Thursday, May 06, 2010

MEAA report on press freedom

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance report on the state of press freedom in Australia released on 30 April is a comprehensive and useful survey of the field, and developments over the last 12 months including secrecy in government, Freedom of Information, whistleblower protection, shield laws, defamation and SLAPP, copyright, spin, anti terror restrictions-the lot. There is even a sane contribution  (rare in most media circles) on privacy by Media Watch's Jonathon Holmes suggesting (as ABC's Mark Scott did in March last year) that media organisations should be trying to negotiate a sensible statutory cause of action for gross unwarranted breaches rather than leave this to common law development by the courts. Other contributions include Michael McKinnon on FOI developments and me on how transparency issues featured differently in the recent Tasmanian and South Australian elections.

Chris Warren's overall assessment in the introduction properly stops short of a positive rating for the Rudd government on results to date, but is optimistic about changes still to come. There is plenty of room for debate about his comment about privacy and the profession: that "Australia's journalists-compared to some comparable markets- have a pretty good record of respecting this right to privacy and on occasions when we do step over the mark we are quick to recognise this as well." The rider about "comparable markets" gives this otherwise unqualified defence of standards a suitably vague and uncertain character.

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