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Political and media website banned from official budget for third year; police screening of federal press gallery journalists proposed

(MEAA/IFEX) - The following is a MEAA media release:

Alliance Condemns Press Freedom Attacks

The Media Alliance has written to the federal government protesting a decision to ban online politics and media commentary site http://www.crikey.com.au from the annual budget lockup.

This is the third year Crikey, which has a subscription base of 45,000, has been barred from the handing down of the federal budget. Crikey has an accredited journalist within the federal press gallery and is the only outlet to be so banned.

"The media stands at length from government - its integrity depends on this independence," said Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren.

"It is not the place of government to hand-select the outlets, and hence the type of coverage, permitted to scrutinise it.

"Such an act of impunity strikes at the good faith the Australian public places in the honesty and transparency of government," Warren said.

The Alliance has also written to the Department of Parliamentary Services strongly objecting to a proposal to introduce police screening for federal press gallery journalists.

If journalists refuse to take the test or fail to submit to it, they will be refused accreditation and banned from parliament house. The decision to ban is discretionary and left in the hands of department officials.

"Media organisations have the right to determine who is best for the job, without undue interference from those with a vested interest," Warren said.

"Journalism is not a government service, it is a democratic institution operating at arm's length from partisan politics.

"It is inappropriate for government to make heavy-handed interventions in the makeup of the gallery, based on ambiguous and discretionary decisions of department personnel."

Official Spin, the latest Alliance annual report into the state of press freedom in Australia, documents a growing authoritarianism on the part of the federal government and ever-greater attempts to control and manage information and public opinion.

The report and letters are available at http://www.alliance.org.au

The Media Alliance represents more than 10,000 journalists across Australia.

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