AJF Statement: Airspace ban in Victoria prevents press freedom
The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom has called on the Victoria Police to refrain from seeking to prevent media organisations from broadcasting live aerial footage from the Melbourne protests.
The police asked CASA to close airspace over Melbourne on Wednesday, and later sought that news organisations delay aerial footage being broadcast for at least 60 minutes or until the police operation had concluded.
In a statement police said, “This is because protesters were actively monitoring aerial livestreams, compromising the police operation and putting the safety of members at risk.”
The AJF believes giving news organisations the capacity to cover the events live provides essential perspective and information about the protests, and the ban amounts to unnecessary overreach of police powers.
Police should not rely on protestors’ use of live news broadcasts as a basis to prevent those news broadcasts altogether. That is a perverse outcome in a liberal democracy.
Peter Greste, AJF Spokesperson, says:
“This has unacceptable implications for press freedom in a liberal democracy.
“Australia’s system of government — and any liberal democracy worth its salt — depends on the ability of the media to report on matters in the public interest. The protests in Melbourne are undoubtedly in the public interest.
“Protesters don’t need to watch the live aerial footage to find out what’s going on. They can get all the information they need on social media. But the wider public deserves to know what is taking place in real time, and they have every right to get it from trusted news sources.
“The AJF calls on Victoria Police to refrain from seeking to prevent live aerial coverage of the protests and their own activities. It is a troubling development in our democracy, and an unwelcome and clumsy overreach.”