Investigative journalism in danger
Despite appearances, press freedom is fragile in Australia. Its constitutional law contains no press freedom guarantees and recognises no more than an “implied freedom of political communication". Federal police raids in June 2019 on the home of a Canberra-based political reporter and the headquarters of the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney were flagrant violations of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and public interest journalism. “National security,” the grounds given for these raids, is used to intimidate investigative reporters, who also have to cope with a 2018 defamation law that is one of the harshest of its kind in a liberal democracy, and terrorism laws that make covering terrorism almost impossible. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also a climate change sceptic and his government tends to obstruct coverage of environmental issues. These political attacks on investigative journalism are all the more worrying because pluralism in Australia has been badly eroded by one of the world’s highest levels of media ownership concentration. Almost all of the privately-owned media are now owned by two media giants, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment, the heir to a consortium created by the Packer family. This oligarchic media model, in which media outlets focus above all on cost-cutting and profits, constitutes an additional curb on public interest investigative journalism.
26 in 2020
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