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Media Alliance releases report: "Kicking against the Cornerstone of Democracy"

(MEAA/IFEX) - 4 May 2012 - The annual Media Alliance press freedom report "Kicking against the Cornerstone of Democracy" will be launched tonight at a gala dinner in Sydney, hosted by Wendy Harmer.

The Media Alliance's annual press freedom report is the most comprehensive survey of media law and regulation in Australia. The report covers all aspects from the recent debate over press regulation to shield laws for journalists and whistleblower protection, privacy, defamation, media ownership and spin. The report also has an in-depth look at developments in media law in New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific Region.

Its title "Kicking against the Cornerstone of Democracy" reflects what the Media Alliance sees as a failure of the government, particularly over the past two years, to fulfil the promises it made in 2007 in its information policy platforms released as it prepared for the election which would see it take power for the first time in more than a decade.

Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said "In 2007 the federal government promised reform that would 'restore trust and integrity' in government with a systematic overhaul of freedom of information and secrecy laws and with the establishment of effective shield laws."

"Five years on the project appears to have stalled. There has been successful reform of the Commonwealth FoI laws and the repeal of conclusive certificates and we've seen the federal Parliament introduce shield laws to help journalists protect their confidential sources."

"But, despite repeated assurances that we would see protection for public service whistleblowers that planned legislation appears to have hit a roadblock. There remain more than 500 secrecy clauses on the statute books which effectively criminalise the release of government information. We've had a review, but no action."

Gold Walkley Winner, Sarah Ferguson, will deliver the keynote address at the dinner which will raise funds for the Alliance Media Safety and Solidarity Fund. The fund helps colleagues in countries such as Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma and Pacific nations including Western Samoa through conflicts, emergencies and other times of hardship.

It provides direct support to the families of journalists and media personnel who are killed while doing their jobs - reporting the truth and providing a voice for all people. For example, the Fund pays for the education of the children of journalists killed in the line of duty in Sri Lanka, and is also funding trauma counselling for journalists after typhoon 'Sendong' in the Philippines.

Each year the Press Freedom eBay Auction raises funds for the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund, assisting journalists and media personnel facing difficulty and danger in the Asia-Pacific region.

Download the report below:
MEAA_2012_Press_Freedom_report.pdf (3493 KB)

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