Australian newspapers go blank to protest gov’t monitor

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Australian media Monday published blanked-out pages to protest the increasing monitoring of government on what is published.

All major Australian media outlets are seeking improvement in the working environment for press in the country.

“It doesn’t impact me personally but it has an impact on what we can report,” a journalist from Sydney told Anadolu Agency.

“The government is closely watching my employer the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Agency] as we are the public broadcaster,” the journalist said requesting anonymity over restrictions to speak on the issue.

Australian publishers including Nine, News Corp, the ABC, SBS, The Guardian, and journalists’ union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance are running a campaign under “Right to Know” to seek stronger protection for media freedom after years of perceived deterioration, Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.

“Every time a government imposes new restrictions on what journalists can report, Australians should ask: ‘What are they trying to hide from me?’,” said Michael Miller, the executive chairman of News Corp Australia.

The newspapers with blacked out lines wrote on their front pages today: “When government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering up?”

It added that media houses are seeking to combat a growing culture of secrecy that restricts journalists’ ability to hold the powerful to account.

“… Media managers are nervous about what can be published or broadcast but by and large freedom of the press still exists. Journalists would rather fight in court than reveal their sources,” the ABC journalist said.

The unprecedented show of unity by Australian media houses also pointed to preserving the right of a journalist to report what government does not want media houses to publish.

“Yes, they have stood by the reporters,” the journalist replied when asked about stand of media houses when it comes to reporting. “That’s why they published the newspapers today with redacted copy.”

Monday’s media protest is supposed to came over harassment of journalists.

Daily Sydney Morning Herald said that Australian police raided home of News Corp political journalist Annika Smethurst for six hours on June 4 over an April 2018 story.

It reported that the journalist had revealed a proposal for electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate to take on an expanded domestic role and figures inside the government were concerned about the idea.

In a similar operation, Australian police raided the Sydney headquarters of the ABC on June 5 over a 2017 series on accusations of war crimes committed by Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan.

The police action, supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, triggered an outpour of condemnation by free press advocates.

“All of Australia’s newspapers look like this today, so that they won’t look like this tomorrow,” tweeted journalist Andy Park with a photo of Monday’s front pages of newspapers.
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