The representatives of the people

Herein the problem.  On a recent ABC showClaire Harvey, Deputy Editor, “Sunday Telegraph” Newscorp said this:

The question here is, I think, that journalists deserve, in their capacity as protectors of the whistle-blowers and the representatives of the people, the ability to be able to talk to sources confidentially to protect their identities.

There has been much said and written about the AFP raids, but to deconstruct, these seem to be the issues in TAFKAS’ mind:

  • Journalists are not a special class of people.  They do not have or deserve special privileges.  They do not represent the people.  There is no such thing as journalist-source privilege.  There is no such thing as Press Freedom, there is just plain, good old Freedom.  Freedom does not come in journalist and non-journalist flavours.
  • The national security laws of Australia apply equally to everyone.  From Joe Schmo on the street to April Sunshine in the ABC newsroom.  There is no special rule for journalists and for non-journalists (however journalists be defined).

Yes.  It may seem a shock to the inner city types to learn that they are not special and don’t get special rights.  It may seem a shock to learn that the rule of law means that everyone is equal before the law.

There will be many more reviews and discussions on this subject, but there should not ever be any special regulatory carve outs for journalists or people who work for so called media organisations.  So called and self described “journalists” are citizens like the rest of us and unless they stand for elected office, they are certainly not representatives of the people.

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34 Responses to The representatives of the people

  1. stackja

    Self-elected, self-regulated. Selfish?

  2. Lilliana

    Talk about delusions of grandeur. You’re not special and you’re not above the law sweetie.

  3. Karabar

    Indeed.
    POTUS 45, Donald J. Trump has often referred to the MSM in general and to some journalists in particular as “enemies of the people”.
    This being a true statement, it is no less nor moreso in Australia.

  4. billie

    Ah, entitlement, such a problem for the times

    As ever, huge interest in equality but it seems there are variations for special people and situations and and and

    The same issues keep coming up and at the heart of them is the notion of being special in some way, either by circumstance, gender (pick just one please), background, genealogy (see how I avoided saying “race”, neat huh?”, or in a nutshell the desire for privilege over others.

    Journalists have gone from being everyman to being privileged and hence the notion of exemption from consequences

    No

  5. Bruce

    For MANY years, the Brisbane daily fish=wrapper,, the “Courier-Mail” had a page header that was essentially a rip-off of the First amendment of the US Bill of Rights. It has long disappeared. Then again, I have avoided that paper and most other Australian newspapers for decades as tendentious, if not toxic nonsense.

    The US Bill of Rights was deliberately derived from the English Bill of Rights as given Royal Assent as a condition of ascent to the throne by William and Mary of Orange (Holland). That document was allegedly incorporated into Colonial and later, Commonwealth law as part of the whole “nation-building” caper.

    Latter-Day legalists will declare that it has been “superseded” by sundry “statute” laws, most of which have at their core, the stripping away of ANY “fundamental and inalienable” rights of the “peasantry”.

    ANY “right’ defined by statutory law can be, and probably will be, stripped away by the flick of a pen at the whim of the overlords.

    We are a LONG way down the road to adopting the “Napoleonic Code”; i.e. If you were not guilty, you would not have been charged, now get on that Tumbrel.

  6. mareeS

    Funny to read so many journalists citing the sanctity of the journalist-source relationship when so many wish to end the sanctity of the confessional. Hypocrites? Just saying, as a retired journalist myself, I would never have gone to prison on such a principle. People want to provide information for all manner of reasons and agendas, it’s their choice, not my duty to shield them if it blows up in their faces.

  7. Up The Workers!

    Maybe if they now see themselves as being “representatives of the people”, this explains why they so frequently gillard all their Leftard reports with so many steaming cow-pats of pollie-speak and pernicious fact-fornication.

    By the way, when you mention: “A.B.C. News Room”, I take it that you mean the “A.L.P. Propaganda, Toadying and anti-Conservative Hate-Speech Room”

  8. Muddy

    Ah, the forked estate. Different tines for different times, huh?

    The forked estate do not so much represent ‘the people’ as interpose themselves between ‘the people’ and the political or other elite class they so envy, in an attempt to convince themselves they are relevant and have self-worth. They step forward to volunteer as a translator between two people who speak the same language. “Let us interpret for you numpties.”

    Just as carbon paper was once one of the few (or perhaps more cost-effective) tools to make copies of a document, the forked estate are desperately searching for a means to to prove their relevance. One of the means to seek relevance is to either enlarge an existing problem, or create a new one, and then pose as the sole resolver of the same problem. Of course, you’d do yourself out of a job if you actually put forward and implemented a practical solution, so to prolong your return to obscurity and self-loathing, you project an image of trying so hard, but always being the victim of someone else’s malicious intentions. Make yourself indispensable, and few (other than the malicious enemies-of-progress whom you have already denounced and positioned) will question either your motives, or the compensation you receive for your morally pure efforts. Your integrity will be lauded.

    This, people, is exactly where the forked estate find themselves: using a different tine for different times.

  9. Speedbox

    For as long as I can remember, journalists have considered themselves ‘elite’. They have enjoyed a cosy relationship with the various Police services and the Government(s) of the day. It was almost incestuous and certainly unseemly the way they would consort together. Journalistic independence was disregarded as the media slavishly parroted the Government/Police line.

    Very occasionally, a journalist would ‘break out’ and report something that was bordering on….. investigative. Or, at the least, was against the comfortable grain. But that story would eventually die away and the equilibrium was restored.

    Now, the relationship is strained but like a long term marriage, the parties will eventually kiss and make up. Then, business as usual. The decline in the quality of media reporting and their subservient relationship with the Government is beyond self-evident. Journalistic standards of honesty in reporting, highlighting of Government/Police excesses and good ol’ fashioned investigative reporting are consigned to the waste bin of history.

    To be fair, it is not entirely the journalists fault when the public are more engaged by Facebook, Twitter et al and display abject disinterest in issues that will directly affect their freedom of speech, freedom of movement and privacy. You reap what you sow.

  10. Pyrmonter

    I demur.

    For reasons to which TAFKAS has previously adverted, there are problems with defining ‘journalism’ and ‘journalists’, but that does not mean there is not a core meaning to the terms. For my part, I’d be more than happy to describe the reporting of the proposed and realized actions of the state in any of its forms that meets the ‘fair and accurate’ tests required to attract qualified privilege under past defamation legislation as ‘journalism’.

    While ‘journalism’ ought not itself result in actual national harm (such, for example, as is suggested resulted from the ‘wikileaks’ exposure of US government intelligence sources in countries where the governments are less than liberal), there are good reasons to be wary of enforcing strict compliance with restrictions on the dissemination of information about how those entrusted with often wide and barely fettered discretions conduct themselves in the name of the Crown. We have too many examples of, at very least, high handedness unchecked by public or parliamentary scrutiny to permit that all that government does, or seeks to keep secret, should be hidden from that great solvent, public scrutiny. Consider, if examples are required, the scandalous misconduct of South Australian forensic pathology and the conduct of the Victorian Police in inducing breaches of solicitor-client legal professional privilege.

  11. Herodotus

    The vast majority of journalists are left wing – hardly “representative”.

  12. Tim Neilson

    Pyrmonter
    #3042305, posted on June 14, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    As I interpret it, you’re more concerned with what is disclosed than the identity of the discloser.

    So why should there be some sort of special privilege for a ‘journalist’ that doesn’t apply to a citizen whistleblower who just happens to stumble on the relevant information?

    The dangers of special privileges for a government-defined class of ‘journalists’ have been discussed on various threads, and I won’t repeat them.

    If our secrecy laws have the balance wrong, then fix them, but fix them for everyone.

    If there were to be a distinction it should be between the taxpayer-funded ABC which arguably should have more accountability and those not taxpayer-funded who arguably should have more latitude.

  13. Pyrmonter

    @ Tim N

    Underlying my comments is a concern that the secrecy laws – which I understand were tightened last year under the general rubric of ‘security’ – are now too strict. But I do think there is a distinction capable of being drawn between general (or even industry-specific) reporting, on the one hand; and self-described ‘whistleblowers’ (of whom the ATO chap is the latest example) on the other. Genuine instances of whistle-blowing on scandalous misconduct ought not to be penalised, but, as with statutory definitions of ‘journalism’, the trick is in the drafting, so as to deter the sort of self-promotion in which half or more of the Crown’s servants, disgruntled at an adverse performance review, or simply seeking their ’15 minutes’ may dabble, whether out of vanity, for a political cause or in the pursuance of the internecine internal politics so common in public sector agencies.

    It’s not easy. But the reflexive instance that ‘the law’s the law’ is a licence for a police state, something most participants on this site 5 years ago would have regarded as self-evidently unacceptable.

  14. John Constantine

    If you make decisions while you are prime minister, but the people that profited from those decisions don’t pay you the money until after you leave politics, is that more or less corrupt than leaving politics and selling access to the contacts you made as prime minister?.

    Just asking the questions that australian journalists do not have the frame of reference to conceptualise.

    Comrades.

  15. Pyrmonter

    @ John Constantine

    There are deep problems with the quality of the Australian press, and above all, the Canberra Press Gallery. If things were bad enough to call for criticism from (of all people) Maxine McKew two decades ago, and nothing has improved. Yet just as there are risks in defining ‘journalism’ lest the boundaries become the subject of political determination, so the notion that you draft secrecy laws with the problems and personalities of the current press pack in mind misses the point of such legislation: it speaks into the undefined future, governing the conduct not only of the current mutts, but shapes those yet to come.

    A culture of pervasive secrecy is very thing that will serve to alienate ordinary voters from politics. Now in some libertarian utopia, that might be a Good Thing – it is possible for the voters to be too trusting. But it is also a path to throwing out what is good – independent courts, the rule of law – in favour of nihilism.

  16. Mique

    The Rule of Law seems to have been almost completely rejected by all sides in the United States, and I believe it to be in great danger here.

    I agree with those who have said that there is a culture of over-classification in the Department of Defence but, even if that is generally true, it does not follow that any particular document or topic is over-classified.
    The only authority who is competent to make such a decision in any particular case is the authority who classified it in the first place. Given that even apparently innocuous official information is subject to the basic “need to know” security provision that over-rides all security clearances, no single individual, particularly inherently “blunt” non-combatant individuals like our self-righteous gossipy lawyer, has sufficient information to make an informed judgement as to whether classified information can safely be leaked to anyone, let alone subversive organisations like the ABC.

    No matter what happens to the recipients of the leaks, the lawyer concerned should have been court-martialled and not charged under civil law, and particularly not in the ACT where the pool of prospective juries is likely to lean heavily to the left.

    In any case only a fool would ever hire him as a legal adviser.

  17. @Pyrmonter

    A culture of pervasive secrecy is very thing that will serve to alienate ordinary voters from politics. Now in some libertarian utopia, that might be a Good Thing – it is possible for the voters to be too trusting. But it is also a path to throwing out what is good – independent courts, the rule of law – in favour of nihilism.

    Your points about balance seem fair. However, and with the disclosure that TAFKAS does not now and has never worked for the Feds (or service providers to), it seems the secret state is growing. Even the most junior roles in the most irrelevant areas seem to require a security clearance.

    The whole system needs to be inverted. Much like our current system of “regulatory approvals” which needs to become a system of “regulatory disaprovals”, when it comes to secrecy it should be that there needs to be a reason for something to be declared secret rather than a reason for it to not to be.

  18. Secrecy in democracy is generally a bad thing. If the voters don’t know all the information the government used to make a decision then how can the voters determine if the decision was a good one?

  19. Roger

    If the voters don’t know all the information the government used to make a decision then how can the voters determine if the decision was a good one?

    In our system of government it’s the Opposition’s job (and the crossbenchers’) to scrutinise government action and policy decisions in question time, estimates hearings and via other inquiries.

  20. Robbo

    Claire Harvey says journos are “representatives of the people”. I must have been asleep during that election Claire. Would you please let me know when newspaper scribblers we’re granted the exalted status that you claim they have because my BS meter has just registered a record reading.

  21. @Roger

    In our system of government it’s the Opposition’s job (and the crossbenchers’) to scrutinise government action and policy decisions in question time, estimates hearings and via other inquiries.

    The voters cannot be expected to rely on the competence of the opposition.

  22. Russell

    Many professional bodies (medical, law, accounting, engineering, etc) have always had ethics codes to uphold the dignity of their profession. If you break a code, you are bought before your peers to determine if you transgressed. So if you care about your standing in the profession and wish to continue to practice, you are careful because professional reputation is really important. In more recent times, some other “professions” (real estate, marketing, board members, politicians and journalism) also have adopted similar codes. But the big difference is the personal efficiency of a profession’s earning capacity. That is, how much time, money, intellect and effort did it take to establish one’s professional standing and its earning capacity? Losing reputation can be a very costly to some professionals and not so much for others.
    Methinks it’s relatively easy to become a journalist or politician verses a brain surgeon or civil engineer. Now we have too many “professional” journos from too many relatively easy courses and grossly-political educational institutions. Licencing them would be a joke. Like car-driving licences with lots of “inadvertent” accidents waiting to happen.
    Maybe we need to introduce “P plates” for journos that they need to display when they publish a story?

  23. Mother Lode

    I saw one of those news boards today that cycles through a mix of still ads and ‘news’.

    Apparently Swedish women are on strike for:
    Better pay
    More free time
    More respect

    Okay, they can demand better pay but I would be very surprised if they were not already guaranteed equal pay for equal work.

    More free time? Perhaps this is the problem – if they are looking for ways to work less they are already unlikely to be putting in the same effort (hours, availability, readiness to do the annoying extra stuff) as men, which would explain why they are complaining about how much they earn.

    More respect? I don’t think they know how it works. Here is a hint – real respect is not accorded to you by law. You earn it. The stuff bequeathed by legislation is called ‘privilege’.

  24. Boambee John

    In our system of government it’s the Opposition’s job (and the crossbenchers’) to scrutinise government action and policy decisions in question time, estimates hearings and via other inquiries.

    One of the intriguing things about Estimates sessions is the language used by those journos about the questions asked.

    Harking back to the 1980s and 1990s, when Bronwyn Bishop asked hard questions of the bureaucrats while an opposition senator, those questions were often described as “hectoring”. When Robert Ray or John Faulkner asked similar questions while in opposition, they were described as “forensic”

    Clearly no bias in the Canberrs press gallery!

  25. Mother Lode

    I love how they dress like businessmen and women to create the illusion of respectability on TV, when they are nothing more than ignorant self-opinionated inebriates.

    Especially funny with the vermin-riddled Greens voting ALP types.

    You know when they go home they leap into a vat of their own week-old effluent just so they can feel themselves authentic and in tune with nature.

    If TV has an smell-o-vision the ABC would not have any audience.

  26. Sydney Boy

    The same “guardians of the people” who report on Megan Markle’s latest spat with a handmaiden? They need special laws to protect their sources?

    Interesting that the journalist cadre were pretty silent when Andrew Bolt was charged under 18C.

  27. Dr Fred Lenin

    A lot of these things are probably declaed secret by career pollies covering their asses and stuff ups , and Sir Humphrey types doing the same thing ,I remember Yes Prime Minister episodes where this was the case .

  28. Herodotus

    When Andrew Bolt was being shafted the journos weren’t just silent, many were happy to see him taken down.

  29. W Hogg

    More freedom for me, but not for thee.

  30. Crossie

    When these journalists declare that they are representatives of the people they are probably right though they don’t qualify it by explaining that they only represent the people they associate with, friends and family. They have no idea how anybody else lives or thinks since they never venture out of their social milieu.

    Even when they visit the suburbia or the wilds of the countryside it’s only to report on a disaster or a crime where they talk to specially selected interviewees. They fly in and out, I don’t think they even eat at the local food outlets. Journalists don’t even holiday where the rest of the population does, they don’t go to Bali or a Pacific cruise so how would they know they fellow citizens.

    They live and socialise, interview and collaborate with other journalists and media types and this is who they represent.

  31. Crossie

    MareeS
    #3042288, posted on June 14, 2019 at 11:57 am
    Funny to read so many journalists citing the sanctity of the journalist-source relationship when so many wish to end the sanctity of the confessional. Hypocrites? Just saying, as a retired journalist myself, I would never have gone to prison on such a principle. People want to provide information for all manner of reasons and agendas, it’s their choice, not my duty to shield them if it blows up in their faces.

    I keep explaining to people that leakers are not whistleblowers, they are just garden variety gossips in an effort to hurt their opponents. What they reveal has no impact on the rest of the population. Whistleblowers are people who reveal illegal or harmful activities by governments or businesses that have adverse effects on the population and they usually do this at great risk to their lives and/or careers.

    Leakers are for the most part harmful to the good guys and the population at large but journalists seem to be OK with that.

  32. Old Lefty

    At least the ABC is consistent in its inconsistencies. Compare how it excoriates the churches with its own refusal to collaborate with the police over the identity of Richard Neville’s p3derast mates from 1975, or make amends for its in-house p3rverts Jon Stephens and Bob Ellis.

  33. Elderly White Man From Skipton

    I wouldn’t care about this issue if Governments weren’t so given to corrupt behaviour. Whether it;’s sneaky subsidies, personal favours, petty indulgences or plain graft we see it often enough to know that the public should be given every opportunity to hear what’s going on. One of the instances raided involved a discussion in government of a plan to spy on citizens. You can see why they’d want to keep that secret. But it’s exactly the sort of thing they should debate in public.
    Personally I’d like to make secrets the exception rather than the rule. In my experience an awful lot of what politicians are told in secret is not able to stand the light of day for the reason that it is not founded in fact.

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