Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
39/ 180
Score : 73.42
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
27/ 180
Score : 78.24
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Press freedom is not constitutionally guaranteed in this island-continent of 26 million people, but a hyperconcentration of the media combined with growing pressure from the authorities endanger public interest journalism.

Media landscape

While public broadcasters play an important role, privately owned media have large audiences and three groups dominate media ownership. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), is the largest public broadcaster, operating TV channels, radio stations and online publications. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the country’s foremost media union, has long expressed concern about the concentration of media ownership. The problem has been made worse by mergers and acquisitions of the largest media organisations. Newsrooms have suffered in recent years from the negative effects of digital transformation, cost reductions and layoffs.

Political context

The owners of the big media companies have close ties to political leaders, which fuels doubts about the editorial independence of their outlets. In 2021, a Senate committee confirmed the existence of a growing culture of secrecy within the administration, informal pressure to prevent the revelation of certain matters, and intimidation of whistleblowers in the name of protecting national security. The independence of the national public broadcaster, ABC, is protected by law. It is regarded as Australia’s most scrutinised media outlet and is often accused of lacking independence but, at the same time, is also seen as more trustworthy than any other media outlet.  

Legal framework

Australia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Many of the country’s states and territories ensure protection of press freedom, but Australia’s constitution does not contain an explicit clause to this effect, which causes growing problems, especially because some states have draconian tendencies with regards to journalistic freedom. At the federal level, the Canberra parliament has also adopted several problematic laws since the end of the 2010s. Those on national security, espionage, and data encryption, in particular, contain provisions authorising officials to violate the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Economic context

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which protects press freedom in Australia, noted in 2022 that, while regional media had already been in decline before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic had accelerated closures and workforce reductions. It also reported that the media industry was hit by the closure of behemoths and the loss of thousands of journalism jobs. The government responded by offering limited financial support to local and regional newspaper publishers, and a promise to support local news and local journalism jobs.

Sociocultural context

Overt censorship is extremely rare, but the media do reflect certain biases, such as the culture of “mateship” – a notion of camaraderie specific to Australian society – which tends to marginalise certain groups, starting with women. Cases of sexism and gender discrimination are a persistent problem. Senate hearings in 2021 also shed light on the normalisation of racism trend on News Corp. broadcasts, with discriminatory remarks that openly target Australians of Asian and African ancestry, along with Muslims, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Australian journalists do not face violence or arbitrary detention. But the perception of their security situation is no less worrying. In a 2021 study, nearly 90% said they feared “an increase in threats, harassment or intimidation”, including threats from the government. Raids by the federal police on the home of a political journalist in Canberra and the headquarters of the ABC in 2019 caused widespread concern. While such raids have not recurred, journalists still feel threatened by other possibilities such as defamation suits, contempt of court charges, attacks on social media, or loss of employment as a result of government or corporate interference.