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21 October 2019

AJF Media Release: We Need a Meeting of Minds

The AJF welcomes the Australia’s Right to Know Coalition (ARTK) campaign for media freedom, which calls on the government to immediately address the lack of transparency damaging our democracy. We support all its campaign aims.

This is a critical moment for both the media, the security services, and the government, and the AJF believes that to achieve those aims a Taskforce is essential.

Peter Greste, AJF founding director and spokesperson says:

“Australia’s reputation has suffered internationally because of the restrictive journalists’ environment that led to the AFP raids, and that still continues now. We cannot continue to allow trust to be eroded in the media, the security forces and government.

“So far there has been two inquiries, a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and a Senate Select Committee, reviewing press freedom. Both are valuable, but at a time when we need to bring people together, they will only cement the entrenched positions, and it’s those divisions that erode trust in our institutions and our democracy.

“We have been calling for a taskforce of all the groups – the media, government and security services – to find an outcome that works for all of them in a way that will also restore trust. That can only be happen if they all work collaboratively.

“A healthy democracy depends on this trust and the ability for fundamental institutions in society to work together.”

The AJF also believes that most of the ARTK’s concerns can be resolved with a comprehensive Media Freedom Act that would, for the first time in Australia’s history, write the principles of press freedom into the very DNA of Australia’s legal code.

  • In February the AJF initiated an Australian campaign for a Media Freedom Act, a critical legislative protection to re-set the relationship between government and media.
  • In May the AJF issued a White Paper with seven key recommendations to protect press freedoms.
  • Three weeks later the AFP raids confirmed the AJF’s concerns.
  • The AJF first called for a Taskforce shortly after the raids.

“The public needs both strong security services and a strong media. One need not undermine the other,” said Professor Greste.

Media Contacts:

Peter Wilkinson, Chair – 0414 383 433 – [email protected]
Olivia Pirie-Griffiths, Executive Director – 0400 716 181 – [email protected]

The AJF promotes media freedom worldwide and the right of journalists to report the news in freedom and safety. This includes working with Australian governments to ensure legislation supports media freedom. We also campaign in the Asia–Pacific region, wherever journalists are censored, threatened, imprisoned or killed. When journalists are silenced, democracy and human rights suffer.

Professor Peter Greste is UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland.