Front pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know" campaign, in Canberra, Australia, October 21, 2019. AAP Image/Lukas Coch/via REUTERSFront pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know" campaign, in Canberra, Australia, October 21, 2019. AAP Image/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS

‘Your Right to Know’ – an otherwise divided media industry unite against rising restrictions in Australia

Like in any other nation, Australian Media is biased too – ‘partisan politics’. However, in a unique sign of solidarity, Australia’s biggest newspapers ran front pages on Monday which appeared to be heavily redacted – a protest against a legislation that restricts press freedom in the country.

Mastheads from the domestic unit of Rupert Murdoch’s conservative News Corp and fierce newspaper rivals at Nine Entertainment  ran front pages with most of the words blacked out, giving the impression the copy had been censored, in the manner of a classified government document.

Monday’s media protest aimed to put public pressure on the government to exempt journalists from laws limiting access to sensitive information, enact a properly functioning freedom of information system, and raise the benchmark for defamation lawsuits.

The campaign for media freedom is a rare moment of unity in Australia’s tightly-held sector, where media houses compete vigorously for advertising spend and offer very different visions for the country.

Global attention turned to media freedoms in Australia early this year when a court order prevented media from reporting that the former Vatican treasurer, Cardinal George Pell, had been found guilty on child sex abuse charges. Some Australian outlets reported that an unidentified person had been convicted but some foreign media companies identified Pell because they were outside Australia’s jurisdiction.

Prosecutors are now seeking fines and jail sentences for three dozen Australian journalists and publishers for their trial coverage. Pell is appealing against his convictions.

Crackdown on Australian media was highligted in June too, just after the re-election of Australia’s Liberal-led conservative government. Police raided the head office of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Sydney and the home of a News Corp editor on suspicion of receiving national secrets. The raids, which involved police examination of about 9,000 computer files at the ABC and sifting through the female News Corp editor’s underwear drawer, drawing international condemnation

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