Two cheers for press freedom

Well done, newspapers of Australia for today’s blacked-out copy protest against arrogant, ceaselessly encroaching bans on free reporting and free speech. My only quibble is that it doesn’t make much sense to ask for liberty – which entails the state giving up unjustly accrued privileges. The state never voluntarily does so. Ultimately, liberty is never given but must be taken. What ever happened to publish and be damned? I appreciate that editors and journalists are on the front lines when government drags them to court and threatens to take away their personal freedom. But this crisis only ends – press freedoms will only be protected – when the state loses in court; when rights are established at law, perhaps via the Constitution and the many and varied treaties to which Australia is a signatory. In addition to lawfare – which media companies can afford to wage – there is press disobedience. Swamp the state with revelations, bring the people with you, make it electorally perilous for governments to attack your right and obligation to report the truth. Just be sure not to compromise legitimate secrecy on national security, diplomatic communications and former military operations. Right now, public sympathy for the media is no sure thing. The disgraceful – in some cases, unlawful – treatment of Ben Roberts-Smith VC, Geoffrey Rush, Cardinal George Pell and even random horse-wranglers under surveillance in their workplace makes today’s pleading by the media a tad hypocritical. It seems reporters have no problem misusing their power to denigrate, defame and humiliate private citizens – even to the extent of perverting the course of justice – but resent being held to account themselves.

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51 Responses to Two cheers for press freedom

  1. Freedom for All

    It would be nice if the Media fought for everyone’s freedom of speech, but alas it’s just self indulgent circle jerk about how they think they are the “gatekeepers”

    They never fought hard to repeal section 18C

  2. stackja

    Can the MSM handle the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    You are correct, of course. But I want to enjoy the schadenfreude.

  4. Walter Plinge

    Commenters in The Australian panned the exercise. “Hypocritical pablum” was my response.

  5. jupes

    Well done, newspapers of Australia for today’s blacked-out copy protest against arrogant, ceaselessly encroaching bans on free reporting and free speech.

    This tactic is just a repeat from when Julia Gillard proposed changes to Australia’s media laws.

    Isn’t it?

  6. C.L.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with journalists being charged – even jailed – for calling Roberts-Smith a murderer and deliberately corrupting any jury that may have to decide his fate. We’ve seen this trick used again and again in recent years. George Pell is in solitary confinement because of it.

  7. The BigBlueCat

    The media have the freedom to publish whatever they like, however they receive the information. It is up to them to justify that the information was received legally and in good faith, and they can legally defend the publishing of such news as “in the national interest”.

    It seems to me they are not prepared to justify and defend what they publish, nor are they prepared to run any gauntlet laid before them by the government. If they are not prepared to stand up and be counted when it matters, why should we ever believe what they write (when it comes to “national interest”)? They should stop looking for a free pass. If they are complicit in handling and disseminating controlled or restricted information, they should be investigated and should face the consequences. Or no consequences if they’ve got it right.

    The media aren’t concerned about truth, they are concerned about selling the news while wanting to avoid any culpability on their part. As others have pointed out, they should “publish and be damned” if something is that important to “the national interest”. But they just don’t like the rules.

  8. Destroyer D69

    Any authority for freedom of the press must also carry an obligation on the part of the press to present THE TRUTH in their publications….and a declaration of the political associations of the organisation.

  9. C.L.
    #3189986, posted on October 21, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with journalists being charged – even jailed – for calling Roberts-Smith a murderer and deliberately corrupting any jury that may have to decide his fate.

    What crime is this? I’m not being facetious either.

  10. Are you saying it is a crime or it should be a crime?

  11. C.L.

    Is what a crime?
    Openly accusing Roberts-Smith of murder or what Roberts-Smith is alleged to have done at war?

  12. I suppose intentionally (fault element) and dishonestly (“physical” element) poisoning juries before they are empaneled to cause a miscarriage of justice.

  13. candy

    I can’t help but think journalists are catching on to the fact that the public may indeed view them as scoundrels and untrustworthy, as they seem to have no boundaries in their abuse and humiliation of citizens, as C.L. says.

    That’s the good thing about Trump’s “fake news” – he has made people aware of being very cautious about believing everything they read.

  14. C.L.

    My argument, Dot, is that in recent years the media has wilfuly broadcast defamatory charges against people – Pell, Rush, Roberts-Smith, Jarratt – in the belief that even if sued they will have successfully groomed a potential jury to make the ‘right’ decision (from their perspective).

  15. I err on the side of not passing any new laws, but maybe it ought to be a crime, like the example of how Australia doesn’t have specific racketeering offences (that I am aware of).

  16. C.L.

    Defamation is already a crime, Dot.

    ?

  17. Sydney Boy

    It seems reporters have no problem misusing their power to denigrate, defame and humiliate private citizens – even to the extent of perverting the course of justice – but resent being held to account themselves.

    True that.

  18. Okay I thought you were talking about creating a specific and new “justice” offence.

    Other than that, have you seen social media?

  19. Judge Dredd

    This is the problem with many conservatives – you can never celebrate a win when it’s presented on a silver platter. Two cheers for locking up the media. They’ve never stood for the truth and have never been in the people’s side.

  20. Bruce of Newcastle

    They’re reaping what they’ve sowed.

    Journalism has itself to blame. Journalists regularly vie with politicians and used-car salesmen for the least trusted professionals.

    It is only getting worse. The control by leftists of journalism schools and major MSM outlets seems to be about 90% in the US, higher in Australia. That has led to a plague of propaganda, fake news, outright lies, distortions, omitted stories and vast economic and social damage to Australia.

    The ABC staff notoriously were found to vote 41% Green, 32% Labor and 14% LNP. And the Libs are more a centre-left party these days too.

    Why, in view of this vile record, do they think they are better than the rest of us and can ignore the law because they are special? Let them change the law the same as the rest of us who have to suffer the mad policies which their reporting has led to, like sky high electricity prices and plastic bag bans.

    I will remind them how to do it: 50% plus one vote in both houses of Parliament. That is democracy, a form of government which the journalism class seems eager to overthrow.

    92% of Republicans think media intentionally reports fake news (2018)

    Gallup: Americans, Especially Republicans, ‘Remain Largely Mistrustful of the Mass Media’ (26 Sep)

    Public trust in the media is at an all-time low. Results from a major new Knight-Gallup report can help us understand why. (2018)

  21. Shy Ted

    Can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper or could sit through more than a few minutes of any TV news. Which says it all really. If only we had a gummint with round objects.

  22. Roger

    The disgraceful – in some cases, unlawful – treatment of Ben Roberts-Smith VC, Geoffrey Rush, Cardinal George Pell…

    Not to mention the generally unsympathetic treatment Israel Folau has received from the press.

    Free speech for me, but not for thee!

  23. nb

    Oh, was there some kind of protest or something in the mainstream media? I didn’t notice. Why go there for anything, except to find out what I am supposed to be thinking about and what my opinion should be. Forget it msm, game over.

  24. Suburban Boy

    Who is Round and to what does he object?

  25. HP

    The backdrop to all of this is that the old, traditional news outlets are more and more feeling the sting of the competition of alternative, online news sources. The old, traditional news media an industry that is shrinking and dying.

    Today, with their self-serving demands to retain their special privileges, the entire old news media effectively asks the government for an unfair advantage over their new online competition: They want to keep their special privileges that do not apply to their competition.

    The news media look to me a lot like the taxi drivers lobbying the government for protection from competition by Uber.

    Comparing the news media’s special privileges to those of the taxi industry, by the way, also instantly clarifies why the media are asking the government for it: it’s not freedom they are asking for, it’s a favour.

    Freedom of expression and speech should apply to all of us. But as so rightly pointed out by others here: there was little media support for repealing 18C. Moreover, the news media saw not much wrong in the Gillard era attempts to regulate the media.

    The taxi industry lost their fight because they offered a poor quality service and were too expensive. One can say the same of the news media.

  26. Bar Beach Swimmer

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #3190063, posted on October 21, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    +1000

  27. Roger

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #3190063, posted on October 21, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    +1000

    Evidently they don’t realise it, but journalists are about as popular as an XR protester glued to a CBD roadway on a Monday morning.

  28. Iampeter

    Well done, newspapers of Australia for today’s blacked-out copy protest against arrogant, ceaselessly encroaching bans on free reporting and free speech.

    Hmmm, methinks people that want to force tech companies to host content against their will, regulate businesses re who they can hire or fire and are supporting legal action against an Australian University because they disagree with their reasons for firing someone, may not be quite solid on concepts like “free speech.”

    I think you got way bigger fish to fry C.L.

  29. I think you got way bigger fish to fry C.L.

    Alas for you Trumpeter, C.L. does not take instruction from you.
    Likewise he is his own agent & is free to spend his time posting comments about Enid Blyton books, Noddy, Santa, or if he so chooses, even to spend his time posting about media hypocrites.

    Deal with it.

  30. Win

    Now if Bill Leek or Mitchell were alive they would have the same blacked out newspaper with a Fake News in big white letters. I’m half a expecting Tom’s 4am cartoons to oblige.

  31. BrettW

    An interesting point made in a column in the Australian today was that half the countries suppression orders against the press were taken out in VIC. Pell’s secret trial also and Lawyer X case.

  32. Zatara

    Swamp the state with revelations, bring the people with you, make it electorally perilous for governments to attack your right and obligation to report the truth. Just be sure not to compromise legitimate secrecy on national security, diplomatic communications and former military operations.

    Oh, and don’t invent/create “news” just stoke support for your political leanings. Or was that too obvious?

  33. Lawrence Ayres

    Does freedom of speech include publishing alternative views or can a newspaper withhold some stories because the owners wouldn’t like them? I think the fact that the media can be selective in what it chooses to publish is one of the reasons it is held in such low regard. It usually does not tell the whole story, just the bit it wants you to hear or see. It is why I do not care too much about the MSM because it cares nothing about me. Far better to get my information from sites like this.

  34. Bar Beach Swimmer

    Lawrence Ayres
    #3190217, posted on October 21, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    ABC, as well.

  35. iain russell

    ‘A tad hypocritical’,WTF!!?? The widespread contempt for the media in Australia is totally justified. Hate speech and bigotry, spin and lies, fake news 24×7. Suck it up sweethearts. Reaping and sowing, I’m afraid.

  36. Mother Lode

    Don’t see what protections they deserve that others don’t.

    Same laws and same defense as anyone else should be enough. The only thing that traditionally has special weight is confidentiality of sources but why they should have that protection and no one else is a mystery to me. Corroboration is not a bad thing.

    They have made a complete pigs’ breakfast with their ‘informed source’ and ‘people familiar with’. In fact, most of the more egregious nonsense from the ABC comes from their not telling you ‘who’ says and does what they are trumpeting. They are shamelessly predisposed to partisanship there.

    Oh, and outright ignorance, but that is more a matter of lack of perspective.

    They see themselves as owning information so they want barriers to entry that we can’t cross and force us to rely on them. That has commercial implications but maybe it is just time to modify their business model.

    Screw ‘em.

  37. RobK

    For Journos generally, it helps when they know what they are talking about.

  38. BorisG

    Any authority for freedom of the press must also carry an obligation on the part of the press to present THE TRUTH in their publications

    And who decides what the truth is exactly?

  39. Whalehunt Fun

    No, any laws, any arrangement, any thing which throws ABC staff in Jailand terrifies their colleagues is beauteous. I would give up any liberty to see the cesspit thrown into jail and then extradited to a chinese prison for whatever fun can be dreamt up.

  40. Iampeter

    My argument, Dot, is that in recent years the media has wilfuly broadcast defamatory charges against people – Pell, Rush, Roberts-Smith, Jarratt – in the belief that even if sued they will have successfully groomed a potential jury to make the ‘right’ decision (from their perspective).

    You mean “allegedly?”
    Just because you disagree with events and have “arguments” that consist of no arguments, doesn’t mean that people are engaging in any unlawful activities.

    But yes, the media sucks, let’s talk about that. Politics!

  41. Mother Lode

    And who decides what the truth is exactly?

    I think the requirement would have to be that what they report and print be in good faith and to a minimal professional standard – and we aren’t talking about some arcane codex here. Commonsense tells you to be objective, to look at both sides to see if what you have heard (and would even like to be true) actually is and so on.

    Any journo who is secretly briefed by a political staffer against an opponent who simply prints it fact (or even extremely probable by layering on the lurid facts in a complete narrative) who does not get and report a rebuttal from the target has clearly failed. (And is currently bog standard level.)

    A reporter reporting on a report in a specialised area and does not try to track down a specialist with the opposite take so readers can weigh up and form their own opinion. Imagine what would have happened if the declarations of a political organisation was not taken as irrefutable science – such as AGW? If, before the gravy train got rolling and its momentum and allure became almost irresistible, a sceptical word was put against it.

    This is the commonsense that anyone could understand. It is what we demand of each other in relationships, in our business dealings – all areas where we do not want to be duped. This is just one more.

    And the ABC would disappear overnight.

  42. Tel

    The news media look to me a lot like the taxi drivers lobbying the government for protection from competition by Uber.

    The taxi drivers don’t care, they often drive for Uber as well.

    The taxi plate owners (sometimes also drivers, but often not) felt a bit ripped off because they had purchased the privilege from government and were told they had been granted a property right.

    The media regularly do favours for government, being careful not to investigate anything too closely, copying press releases without too much critical thinking, and making sure the established narrative gets printed, while any little niggling questions get ignored. They believe this means government owes them some protection because they sure have been protecting government for a long time. They always were gatekeepers first and writers second, but now they want a formal arrangement to that effect.

  43. struth

    The media wants free speech for me, but not for thee.
    Of course, in a perfect world, the government would have no secrets it shouldn’t make available and be completely transparent, except for military/defence reasons.
    Those papers marked top secret, from those departments, if leaked and exposed should have those that did it charged as traitors.
    If government was reduced to the size it should be, it should have nothing to hide, and false accusations by media into private lives is actionable now.
    This problem has come about because government is too big.
    If government has information on private citizens, other than births deaths and marriages, etc, it shouldn’t.

  44. struth

    Hmmm, methinks people that want to force tech companies to host content against their will, regulate businesses re who they can hire or fire and are supporting legal action against an Australian University because they disagree with their reasons for firing someone, may not be quite solid on concepts like “free speech.”

    The tech companies you refer to are not playing by the laws already established.
    They are either a publisher or they are not.
    If a telephone company decided to ban you from using the telephone because they don’t like what you said, are they a carrier or a publisher?

    I don’t want business regulated as to who they can hire and fire, but when there are disagreements regards sticking to contracts signed between free citizens, as is the case with UQ and the professor , it’s precisely why we need courts.
    Contractual obligation is paramount for a market economy.
    Also, the university is taxpayer funded, so does your tiny brain get the fact that when it comes to Public servants, we are the bosses, so following your logic, we need no reason to sack the entire lot of QU.
    Except there would have been employment contracts signed, by those guys as well.
    It’s just a tiny thing that stops complete anarchy and economic collapse.
    Contractual obligation.
    I as a taxpayer, also probably fund Rugby Australia for a percentage, knowing this corrupt nation, and therefore taxpayers are bosses there too, however, contracts have been signed.

    and are supporting legal action against an Australian University because they disagree with their reasons for firing someone,

    This is asking for the rule of law to be the arbiter in contractual obligation, not for government intervention.

  45. C.L.

    You mean “allegedly?”

    Nope.

  46. Iampeter

    You mean “allegedly?”

    Nope.

    Well, unless those people you listed have actually been convicted of any unlawful activity then all I can say to your response is: …/facepalm.

  47. Zatara

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel regarding journalistic responsibility. The Society of Professional Journalists have had a Code of Ethics since 1909.

    Now they just need to follow it.

    A few noteable excerpts:

    Journalists should:

    – Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.

    – Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.

    – Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.

    – Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.

    – Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

    – Label advocacy and commentary.

    – Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.

  48. Clam Chowdah

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with journalists being charged – even jailed – for calling Roberts-Smith a murderer and deliberately corrupting any jury that may have to decide his fate. We’ve seen this trick used again and again in recent years. George Pell is in solitary confinement because of it.

    I feel the same way. Also about national security.

  49. Wayne From Perth

    I remember Charlie Hebdo and we all stand for Press freedom.

    They caved very quickly.

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