"The Australian Press Council has awarded its Press Freedom Medal to two outstanding individuals for their major contributions to ensuring a free and open society:
Peter Timmins - Australian Open Government Partnership Network
and Michael Cameron - News Corp Australia.
The 2017 Press Freedom Medals were awarded at a special ceremony in Sydney on 19 May. As well as members of the Press Council, journalists and guests from a variety of organisations attended.
Peter Timmins is a well-known advocate of improved standards of transparency and accountability and Australia's leading expert on Freedom of Information (FOI) policy and privacy, as well as being a leader of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network and publisher of the Open and Shut blog.
Michael Cameron is the National Editorial Counsel for News Corp Australia. He leads an in-house legal team, which he established, whose members have appeared in dozens of matters involving challenges to suppression orders, injunctions, defamation actions and so on, advocating for transparency and open justice.
"The purpose of the Australian Press Council is to promote responsible journalism to inform the Australian public and support effective democratic institutions. This year's winners have been exemplary in their tireless pursuit of the critical principle that citizens have a right to know, and so governments, and other important public and private institutions, must operate in an open and transparent manner," said Chair Professor David Weisbrot.
"Although the Press Council did not set off with this intention, this year's Press Freedom Medal winners prove the point that free speech and press freedom are not only reliant on brave and capable editors and journalists, but also on lawyers, activists and others who fight to preserve and extend these freedoms."
Michael Cameron said: "I'm honoured to accept this award on behalf of the editorial legal team at News Corp Australia, whose tireless work enables the publication of articles that would be otherwise be barred by our unduly secretive courts system and plaintiff-friendly defamation laws. Special thanks goes to Larina Mullins, our senior litigation counsel, who has appeared at close to 100 suppression hearings in the last three years."
Peter Timmins said: "This is a great but unexpected honour, a tribute to the many individuals and organisations including the Press Council that believe strongly in open, transparent and accountable government and joined the network to seek to ensure the government lives up to its Open Government Partnership commitments. Pursuing reform to improve our democracy is a never-ending journey."
The Press Council has awarded Press Freedom Medals in earlier years, but it was reserved for people affiliated with the organisation. It was decided last year to revitalise the award and open it up to people who, through their work as journalists, legal practitioners, community activists or advocates, help ensure the preservation of free speech, press freedom and open and transparent government.
In May 2016, Kate McClymont of Fairfax Media and Paul Maley of News Corp Australia received the first of the medals awarded under the new criteria, to great acclaim.
Read the award citations here."