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Queensland state urged to avoid suppressing information

(MEAA/IFEX) - The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance is concerned that an attitude favouring the heavy-handed suppression of information is emerging in Queensland. This comes after the Queensland Parliament rushed through extraordinary legislation at 3.30am on the morning of 8 March 2013 to protect the identities of those named in sensitive Fitzgerald inquiry files that had been accidently released by Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission in what was described as an "administrative oversight".

It comes a week after the full 1000-page report by the Commission of Audit ordered by the Newman Government was withheld from the public and only a brief 28-page executive summary was made available.

"It would be disappointing if the state government was beginning to adopt a suppression-first approach to public information," Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said. "Clearly the need to keep the identity of some witnesses before the Fitzgerald Inquiry secret is important but the implementation of a late-night Parliament sitting is a blunt tool approach to an administrative error and it would be quite wrong for the government to use such the tactic as a precedent for other issues it wants to keep hidden from the public.

"Similarly, the government has talked about its Commission of Audit with great fanfare. But its first instinct upon the Commission handing over its findings has been to withhold the full report," Warren said.

The Media Alliance believes that the Newman Government must commit itself to the free-flow of information it holds in the name of its citizens and should exercise open and transparent government at every opportunity rather than move first to suppress information to keep its citizens in the dark.

Nor should it play favours with media outlets by offering exclusive access to information that should be readily available to all the media on behalf of the community.

"The government should be subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny by the fourth estate - that's the function of the media in a healthy democracy. Rolling out morsels of information and drip-feeding them to the media isn't worthy of any government elected to serve the people," Warren said.

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