An interesting story this, not that there’s anything wrong with free speech in principle. The thing here is that this reads like a News Limited press release. Oh, hang on. It’s written by Crhis Merritt, The Australian‘s Legal Affairs Editor.
Ah, now I remember, is this the same Chris Merritt who’s constantly bashing the ‘civil libertarian’ set over their support for free speech for Australia’s Muslim community and demanding that David Hicks be given a fair trial?
The same Chris Merritt who vilified and spewed hatred out at Jack Thomas and the entire Australian legal system when so-called “jihad” Jack was acquitted on terror charges because the Australian police had coerced a confession out of him.
Merritt, you are an unprincipled hypocrite, keep your bloody hands of my freedom of speech you disgusting Murdochoid.
United effort to save free speech
Legal affairs editor
10 May 2007
THE nation’s top media interests put aside their differences this morning and announced the formation of a coalition aimed at persuading governments and the courts to end the erosion of free speech.
They will commission an audit of the growing restrictions on the media and recruit a chairman to lead a lobbying campaign.
The initiative was revealed at a press conference in Sydney at which the top executives of rival media companies all warned that free speech was being eroded.
News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan said that restrictions on free speech meant Australia was “a lightweight democracy” compared with countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Britain.
“Two international studies ranked Australia 35th and 39th on a world press freedom index,” Mr Hartigan said. “We should be up there with other democracies that are way in front of us.”
The campaign, which was initiated by News Ltd, publisher of The Australian, is backed by Fairfax Media, the ABC, the commercial radio and television industries, SBS, Australian Associated P ress and Sky News.
Mr Hartigan said he believed other media organisations were likely to join the free speech campaign over the next few days. He said it was not the initiative was not “a political swipe at any political party”
“To trace the degradation in our press freedoms over many recent years shows that parties of all persuasions, whether they be federal or state, have allowed this to continue,” he said.
The coalition, known as Australia’s Right to Know, says issues such as suppression orders in courts, refusal of Freedom of Information applications and terror-related laws have eaten away at press freedom.
Representatives of other media organisations were present, including the journalists union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which outlined the scale of the problem last month in its annual press freedom report.
MEAA secretary Chris Warren said restrictions had become so severe that the public was being denied crucial information.
The main problem areas outlined by the MEAA include:
* The Freedom of Information Act has been rendered almost useless by the High Court and the federal Government.
* Terror trials are being conducted largely in secret under court orders obtained by the federal Government.
* Companies are using strategic litigation to silence public debate.
* Journalists are being threatened with imprisonment for upholding their code of ethics.
* Whistleblowers are being charged with criminal offences for revealing maladministration by the federal Government.
Mr Warren said the greatest crisis for press freedom in Australia was the attack on journalists’ confidential sources.
Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus are awaiting sentence for contempt of court for refusing to identify a confidential source in the federal public service.
In an unrelated incident, former Customs officer Allan Kessing is awaiting sentence after being convicted of a criminal offence for leaking documents revealing flaws in airport security.
Federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock promised in 2005 to introduce shield laws to protect journalists’ sources but he was unable to secure sufficient state support at a meeting last month.