“It goes without saying that in an open democracy, a robust free press is essential.” – Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Press freedom plays a vital role in a functioning democratic society, this much is obvious.
By recognising this importance, it is then interesting in seeing how free the press of a certain country is. In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Australia ranked 19 with Norway in first place and New Zealand 13th.
The report pointed out key areas as to where our press freedom is lacking:
- Heavily concentrated media ownership with two major media groups
- “Protection of journalists’ sources varies from state to state”
- “Coverage of Australia’s refugee detention centers on Manus Island (off Papua New Guinea) and the Pacific Ocean island of Nauru is nonetheless restricted”
- “New laws in 2015 provide for prison sentences for whistleblowers who disclose information about conditions in the refugee centers or operations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization”
- “A telecommunications law has opened the door for surveillance of the metadata of journalists’ communications”
- “Federal police raids on Labor Party parliamentarians in 2016 violated the confidentiality of sources and showed that the authorities were more concerned about silencing the “messengers” than addressing the issues of concern” (Read more)
These issues and the legislation changes in recent years have been argued to have criminalised public interest journalism and whistleblowers which are key players in the media acting as a watchdog for the government in ensuring a stable, functioning democracy.
While Australia has many press freedoms and benefits when looking at countries where journalists are killed on a regular basis, it can be easy to forget that there are still these issues that prevent journalism representing the public’s interest and investigating matters of government that impact on the effectiveness of democracy.
While we may look at our ranking and our freedoms compared to others in a much worse position and think our current press freedom is adequate, it is still always important to always monitor this and improve on issues where they are prevalent. It is also important for the public, as much as journalists, to care and advocate for change and better conditions for the sake of our own democracy.
Feature image source: http://hakam.org.my/wp/index.php/tag/press-freedom/