Australian press freedom in peril: Should we worry? – Editorial Two

Issue 417, June 15, 2019

Last week’s police raid on some sections of the Australian media has become an issue of concern to the veterans in the industry. Stalwarts say that the government’s claim that the ABC, The Australian and others breached national security in publishing sensitive reports has been discounted.

Should we worry in New Zealand- that our freedom could also come under a cloud? Looking at the world, we find that the freedom of the press is atrophying.

Muzzling at its worst

According ‘Freedom House,’ a think-tank in the United Kingdom, the muzzling of journalists and independent news media is at its worst point in 15 years.

The ‘Committee to Protect Journalists,’ says that the number of journalists jailed for their work is at the highest level since the 1990s. While the deterioration has come from all quarters, especially ‘media-tight’ countries such as Russia, Nicaragua, East and South Africa and the Arab Gulf, even US President Donald Trump has frequently demonised the news media as the “enemy of the people.”

However, America’s strong First Amendment and independent courts have prevented him from acting on these illiberal outbursts. Nonetheless, his rhetoric has given succour to autocrats in other countries, who have passed laws outlawing “fake news” and quickly set about persecuting political opponents.

New Zealand politicians value the free press. We hope it will remain that way.

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