You have a right to know what your government is doing on your behalf.
It is your tax payers’ money and it is with your authority that they are managing this country, so politicians and government should be required to answer first and foremost to the people .
Yet over the past two decades they have introduced more than 75 pieces of legislation, effectively criminalising journalism and penalising whistleblowers.
These penalties exist even when whistleblowers reveal wrongdoing or important information about decisions the government is making.
Australian media unites for press freedom
Today the Australian media is taking the unprecedented step of censoring their front pages.
Every major Australian newspaper has joined a campaign led by Australia’s leading media organisations and industry groups known as Australia’s Right to Know.
A press release on behalf of the alliance said today’s front page stunt was ‘a bleak warning of a future where laws continue to erode media freedom so that governments can cover up information from the public’.
‘The move aims to push the Federal government into lifting its veil of secrecy,’ the press release read, ‘new research reveals that 87 per cent of Australians value a free and transparent democracy where the public is kept informed.’
‘Sadly, only 37 per cent believe this is happening in Australia today’.
Australians’ human rights at risk
‘While the government withholds information relating to aged care abuse, proposed new powers to spy on ordinary citizens, and the terms of land sales to foreign companies, Australians believe these are matters they absolutely have a right to know about,’ the press release continued.
‘This includes 81 per cent who are concerned that there are thousands of complaints about aged care homes that the government won’t share with the public.
‘They’re also worried that the government is becoming less transparent on key public issues including the misuse of personal data, public funds spent on political campaigns, immigration and climate change.’
Byron Shire Council plays its part in blocking access to information
Examples on a local level include the Byron Shire Council’s refusal to release information, including meeting minutes and engineers reports, about the infamous Diso Dong and dragging their feet on providing documentation on the Byron bypass.
The Byron Hospital fraud investigation recently exposed by The Echo again required whistleblowers to come forward to reveal the problems at the hospital.
The Australia’s Right to Know campaign organisers say they are shining the spotlight on continued threats to media freedom.
Those threats include changes to laws that hinder attempts to hold powerful people and organisations to account by intimidating and harshly punishing those who dare to speak out, often when they have nowhere else to turn.
Reporters still unsure of fate post-AFP raids
The campaign comes after Australian Federal Police raids on the ABC and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst in June.
Both media organisations are still awaiting the outcome of those raids, including confirmation of whether the targeted journalists will face prosecution.
‘Australia is at risk of becoming the world’s most secretive democracy. We’ve seen the public’s right to know slowly erode over the past two decades, with the introduction of laws that make it more difficult for people to speak up when they see wrongdoing and for journalists to report these stories,’ ABC Managing Director David Anderson said.
‘No one is above the law but something in our democracy is not working as it should when we fail to protect people acting in the public interest.’
‘This is not just about police raids of journalists’ homes and our nation’s newsrooms,’ Nine Entertainment’s CEO, Hugh Marks, said.
‘This is much bigger than the media. It’s about defending the basic right of every Australian to be properly informed about the important decisions the government is making in their name.’
News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said, ‘Australians should always be suspicious of governments that want to restrict their right to know what’s going on.’
Most Aussies want stronger reporter and whistleblower freedom
Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Australians reportedly gree that journalists should be protected from prosecution when reporting in the public interest.
They also want stronger protections for whistleblowers, with 88 per cent saying those who call out wrongdoing play a vital role in society.
This includes Richard Boyle, who spoke out about the Australian Taxation Office’s ability to take money out of people’s bank accounts without their knowledge.
He now faces six life sentences if found guilty of all 66 charges and has described events of the past year as hellish.
‘The media coalition seeks legislative changes so journalists don’t fear imprisonment for doing their job,’ said Australia’s Right to Know coalition.
‘These would also force the government to weigh the public interest before applying for search warrants and launching prosecutions.
The reforms propose effective protection for those who speak out, ensuring there are systems in place to limit government secrecy. They continue to participate in government inquiries into press freedom and await the findings of these later this year, but are also calling on Australians to voice their concerns and stand up for their right to know.’
People can tell the government to stop the secrecy by going to yourrighttoknow.com.au or including #RightToKnow in social posts.