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Australian newspapers black out front pages in protest against secrecy laws

A fractious media situation seems to be prevailing in Australia which arguably is because the nation’s media is subject to a regime of intense government secrecy and the threat of criminal charges for journalists doing their job.

In a move to expose the government and protest against the deterioration of press freedom Australia’s major media companies have redacted the front pages of their newspapers to highlight the constraints on media organisations under strict national security legislation.

The Right to Know coalition campaign is a unification of Australia’s major media organisations who have joined together to protect and uphold the media freedom and public interest journalism in Australia.

Extending support to the the campaign, nation’s national and regional newspapers including The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review hit newsstands on Monday with their front-pages censored and blacked out.

Advertisements have also been rolled out across the country’s television networks, asking viewers to consider the question: “When the government hides the truth from you, what are they covering up?”

The threats in the sphere of Australia’s journalism has long concerned media houses but the issue sparked out into the consciousness of public following two consecutive raids by police on the national broadcaster ABC and a News Corp journalist’s home earlier this year over two stories that had proved embarrassing for the government.

Australian media organisations argue that the Parliament has eroded press freedoms and have passed more than 60 laws relating to secrecy and spying in the past 20 years.

The campaign aims for an urgent reform in Australia’s journalism and calls for the right to challenge government applications for warrants against journalists, exemptions for journalists to laws that would see them jailed for doing their job, legislated protections for public sector whistleblowers, and reforms to both freedom of information and defamation laws. It also calls for a new regime to limit which documents can be stamped as secret.

The governement has responded to the furore over press freedom by calling for a parliamentary committee to hold an inquiry into the impact of Australian law enforcement and intelligence powers on press freedom.



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