Posts Tagged ‘freedom of the press’
Following the inquiry into the death of prisoner Simon Rochford, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker recommend legislation to allow police to suppress information that might “compromise an investigation into a serious offence.”
Western Australia’s new new Attorney-General Christian Porter (the guy who told The Australian that addressing the state’s indigenous prison rate was not high on his agenda) apparently thinks this recommendation is “sensible and deserves consideration”.
Erm… giving the police MORE powers to keep stuff OUT of the press when on most occasions they seem to love PUTTING IT THERE THEMSELVES seems a little strange.
Rochford’s death was yet another chapter in the legal saga surrounding the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence. Andrew Mallard’s conviction for the murder was quashed by the High Court in 2005 after he had spent over a decade in jail. The Corruption and Crime Commish made findings of misconduct against police and prosecutors involved in the case. A cold case review discovered a previously unidentified palm print from the crime scene which was traced back to Rochford … who happened to be serving time for the murder of his girlfriend.
Deputy Coroner Vicker found that the ABC television news report naming Rochford as the new suspect in the high-profile murder case “precipitated” his decision to commit suicide just hours after he saw the news.
Last week, The Australian‘s Debbie Guest pointed out that:
The calls for new police powers follow a year of scrutiny of Perth media, including a raid on the Sunday Times newspaper by armed police in an attempt to find the source of a story that embarrassed the previous Carpenter government. [link]
Yeah, News Ltd is still pissed about that one. But I don’t think this is about the media.
Last year I wrote on my own blog about how the cops effed up in naming Supreme Court Registrar Corryn Rayney’s “estranged” husband the “prime suspect” in her murder yet never charged him. Mr Rayney, who’s a FRICKING BARRISTER, recently sued the coppers and the government for defamation.
An article on PerthNow reporting that police revealed info about an item found at the site in King’s Park where Registrar Rayney’s body was found, noted:
Since the defamation writ was issued last month, police have been reluctant to comment on any aspect of the Rayney case.
But wait… now the government wants to give the cops the powers to “suppress information”?
You’ve gotta be kidding me, Christian Porter — the boys in blue can’t keep their OWN mouths shut, dontcha think you need to work on that before fannying about with “suppression” laws?
And, um, didn’t they keep quiet about the tape of Jane or Sarah talking to some random at The Claremont on the night they went missing for twelve years and then got bitch-slapped about that?
This is not about the media going over the line. This is about the cops making value judgments about things when it suits them, and then blaming the mean, nasty media when the shit hits the fan.
Now, Labor’s shadow Attorney-General McGinty says nasty suppression legislation could stifle information which should be made public (well spotted, Captain Duh):
“I have reservations about the wisdom of yet further suppression orders of information [that] should be in the public arena,” he said.
“I think on balance that the public interest is best served by not having so many prohibitions on the public being given the information upon which they can make their judgements.” [link]
Ok, look, I love the dude (especially for everything he did for ending discrimination against Teh Gays in WAys, and stuff) and he’s right, there’s no point putting more powers in the cop’s hands, but in my humble opinion, Jimmy doesn’t actually get the point either.
I just wonder… Will laws ban giving info to the jurors who are supposed to make the judgments? Because until they are unable to lie their way out of jury duty, no member of the public should be making judgements about anyone’s criminal liability.
They should get back to washing their cars on the lawns and shopping at Bunnings and doing those other things all good Sandgropers do. Ok?
While the police are investigating stuff, the public should have no right to information unless aforementioned public can help. The public ‘making judgements’ about on-going investigations, where no charges have been laid and no case against a person has been made in a court of law, has got squat to do with it.
Everyone got that? Good.
But Jimmy’s right on the essential bit: banning the media from talking about criminal investigations like that isn’t the solution.
Sue Short, the ABC reporter who broke the story, said she wouldn’t have named Rochford if she’d “been given a good reason” and call me naïve but I would like to think journos still have the ethics and/or values that would have them hold off on a story if it would do more harm than good to an on-going investigation.
Legislators don’t need to create powers that let the police keep the media quiet, they need to get the police to do their job, and give them proper media training while they’re at it.
The pollies should get back to something they can actually fix instead of wasting time ranting on about unnecessary and draconian “suppression” laws.
I mean, honestly. What do they think they’re running? Notre Dame Uni? Psh.
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck… It may well be a Peking duck. Or Beijing duck, as we say these days.
As mentioned here on 08-08-08, there was some warning that this would happen.
Having had some personal experience with people refusing to openly discuss censorship issues, you may be able to guess where I stand on this matter.
What about you? I encourage youse all to check out the Media Watch segment on it and come back to discuss.
Today is going to be a good day.
Just quickly, though, I got this email from GetUp and I wanted to share…
If you watched the news last night, you would have seen the lead story – a new GetUp TV ad has hit the headlines as Kevin Rudd arrives at the Beijing Olympics, urging him to speak out on Tibet.
The ad, made with the Australia Tibet Council, is going to air either side of the Opening Ceremony, click here to watch it:
We sent the PM a copy of the ad, and he has pledged to raise human rights issues in Beijing. We know this sort of diplomacy works – only last week the PM condemned the media censorship around the Olympics – and the Chinese Government eased the restrictions.
But there is one hurdle left to clear – the Seven Network, in response to the media interest our ad has generated is now denying the fact that we’ve booked the ad space. Unfortunately for them we have on our desks a confirmed booking sheet suggesting otherwise!
Whether or not Channel 7 decide to uphold the values of free speech, you can watch the ad for yourself here:
It’s vital that after the Olympics the world does not ‘switch off’ on Tibet – that’s why we’re planning more ads for the closing ceremony and beyond. Stay tuned for opportunities to help get the message out soon.
The GetUp team
PS – Let us know what you think about the Tibet issue and free speech on our blog.
Iiiiiiiinteresting. WTF is up with that, Channel 7?
I’m boycotting the Olympics, btw, just ’cause I like to be fussy and shit. I was gonna go the the gyme tonight, but they’re all Olymaniacal over there at the moment, and no doubt all the fancy little treadmill TVs will be on the ‘Lympics, so I will sit at home all peacefully and read my Dali Lama book or sommink.
Hahaha so turns out the administration of my un-beloved Noter Dayme has more in common with dictatorial regimes than previously thought. As reported by news.com.au (the Woman’s Day of online “news”):
The closure of Moskovski Korrespondent, whose editor Grigori Nekhoroshev was forced to resign, was a sharp reminder of the perils of invoking Kremlin displeasure.
I thought we should run the story to help break the taboo,” said Nekhoroshev. He paid a swift penalty for his daring: the paper, owned by Alexander Lebedev, the billionaire tycoon, ceased publication immediately.
Its parent firm blamed “costs” and “conceptual disagreements with the newsroom” but insisted in a statement that “this has nothing to do with politics and is solely a business decision”.
Hrm, why does that sound so familiar? Because those Krazy Kats at Kremlin use the same lines to try and shut down press outlets for which they have no care as the Student Life Office gang!
“So, the Uni learned it’s media-censorship tactics from the Kremlin?” a friend asked at dinner last night. “No,” replied Matt, “The Kremlin learned it’s media-censorship tactics from the Uni. Who’d’ve thunk it, eh?”
My previous rant about my alma mater got me thinking. Now that I’m out of the system… I can bloody say what I want! And, more specifically, what I wanted to say last year when I was editor of Quasimodo, the University of Notre Dame Student Association’s student magazine.
In late 2006, I was honoured to be appointed as editor of Quasi. I had written several pieces for the mag in the preceedings years, and I loved what its existence meant: an outlet for students to write about what interests, or matters to, them and discuss ‘student life’ (as far as that term can apply at UNDA).
Then came the Bullshit.
There were lots of things that pissed me off. But what really got me upset was when they banned two versions of editorial I wrote for my first (ultimately only) issue.
The first version dealt with the reason why it had taken us longer than usual to get the issue out. I wasn’t “allowed” to talk about. Ignore it, they said to me, focus on what we have now. So I wrote on the importance of freedom of the press.
I guess it’s fair that I wasn’t allowed to publish that either. Cause we didn’t have freedom of the press!
Somehow The Sunday Times got wind of it. I had an “off the record” chat to a journo there, which, of course, got published that weekend:
Quasimodo editor Sunili Govinnage said the student association’s constitution ruled that the magazine be vetted by a review committee. She said the committee was meant to provide legal advice, but its student representative had been kicked off and its role was now “pure censorship”.
“They won’t allow any criticism of the university at all, even any analogies that might hint at criticism about freedom of speech,” she said.
Ms Govinnage said she was reduced to tears and felt “like an administration pawn” when the last edition was scrapped.
Ironically, its editorial was on the importance of press freedom.
“The university took it as a direct criticism of the vice-chancellor, which it
wasn’t,” Ms Govinnage said.
Hahahahahaha. That’ll teach me never to say anything “of the record” ever again, won’t it?
I thought I was going to get expelled. Seriously, I had probably never been so scared, or felt more like an 8-year-old who got caught stealing snakes from the Deli (which I have never, ever, done, by the way, this just felt as if I had, like I was falsley accused or something), in my whole life.
Here’s what I wrote about The Bullshit to appear in the Notre Dame Law Student Society paper, The Sundry Crimes, which is, of course, my version of the events:
Back in December 2006, the Uni admin approached the Student Association with a polite request that Quasimodo no longer be published. The concerns related to the cost of the publication and the fact that, in the past, the magazine had criticised the way things were done at Notre Dame without going directly to those responsible and giving them a chance to respond.
To be fair, once or twice Quasi got some little things wrong. The uni wasn’t impressed by the fact they were giving tied-grants to the Student Association (for other purposes) but that the Student Association was in turn spending a significant amount of cash (their own) on a publication which was bad-mouthing the uni.
Bottom line: either Quasi went, or the money went.
The Student Association and the Quasi Committee spent considerable effort getting more sponsorship, cutting down the costs of publication and making an effort to improve the way we write about things happening at Uni. Annabel Hay’s article on the new credit point/fees structure was well researched and all the facts were checked and signed off by the Registrar, who provided us with further information and his responses to our concerns.
But apparently it still wasn’t good enough … until we begged them to actually read the magazine. It was eventually ‘authorised’ for publication (although we’re still not sure what gave them the authority to authorise it or ban it) on the condition that the Vice Chancellor’s delegate gets to censor all inklings of profanity, references to sex, and the story behind the uni’s attempted ban of the mag itself.
Because we just had to get the thing to the printers due to our contractual commitments with our sponsors and the fact we had been fighting over this for months, we capitulated and just said ok to it all … it was more important to get the mag out before exams. Looking back now we’re not proud of it but it felt like we had little choice.
Here’s what we don’t get … we appreciate that we’re a private uni, and that there are something things that are off-limits, but we’re not a primary school. We reckon that our standard is pretty gosh-darn high in comparison to the other uni papers, and to censor the word ‘arsehole’ and ban us from using the common phrase ‘short and curly’ seems a little over the top.
And in terms of commenting, and even criticising university policy, we believe that as the constitutionally-created publication of the Student Association we’re allowed to talk about it in a reasonable, rational way and we shouldn’t be expected to be part of the Uni’s massive Public Relations machine.
‘Freedom of speech’ is a phrase that most of us have accepted into our vocabularies. Without getting into nitty-gritty arguments about human rights (whether they exist, are enforceable, should be legally/constitutionally recognised…) when someone talks about the freedom to express opinions and comment on social and political appenings in a democratic society, most of us probably take it for granted.
While we do not have a Bill of Rights which entrenches freedom of speech in the popularly-known sense, the High Court has recognised that ‘freedom of political communication’ is a fundamental right implied in the text and structure of our Constitution. This right is derived from the fact that we have a Parliament that is “directly chosen by the people”. We, the people, have a right to know everything about whom and what we’re voting for.
CEO of WA Newspapers, Ken Steinke, recently said that while “every government would prefer to have a compliant media which simply recycles the government’s version of events … that is not how The West Australian or any other ‘credible’ nedia organisation operates.”
“Many journalists and critics have encountered the inappropriate pressure applied by some government politicians and staff in an attempt to manipulate news coverage,” he said, but “that pressure has been ineffective and will continue to be resisted by all media.” [link]
It is with shame that I read those words. And from that shame I vow to never let our magazine, your magazine, be unnecessarily censored again. Sure, I agree with Jim McGinty that The West can be shonky (I only ever read the Today section, anyway), and I know Quasi isn’t a beacon of enlightened journalism, but what really is? We’re just a student newspaper, for crying out loud!
Regardless of concerns over quality, which can and in terms of Quasi, I believe has been fixed, I think it’s more important to have criticism and questioning in order to create a real dialogue and work towards improving the way things are done, rather than have the government and other authorities go on doing things their way without batting an eyelid or taking a look at themselves.
Suprise, suprise, this wasn’t allowed to go to print. The Law School didn’t want to risk The Admin coming down on them too.
But at least now it’s in cyber space. The editorial I wanted to print will be here shortly, too.
Well it’s not quite going to change the world, but I got my first letter to the editor published this week… in the Western Suburbs Weekly in response to this. Heehee I’m so proud of myself!
Oh, yeah, the letter, as published in the ‘Western View’ section on the 2/11/04 issue of WSW, along with another on the same topic:
Hitler cartoon was great
I wonder if the Hon. Senator Campbell (Western Suburbs, October 26) complained to our daily newspaper last Wednesday [sic, it was Friday] for Alston’s blatant rip-off of Smithy’s great Howard-Hitler cartoon?
And those readers who found it “puerile” should be grateful we live in a society where opinions like that can be freely aired. Although maybe not for much longer.[And they spell my name wrong…], Nedlands
Ten out of 10 to cartoonist
Contrary to the opinion expressed by John Lanchaster and Ian Campbell (Western Suburbs, October 26), I and many, many others thought the Howard-Hitler cartoon was outrageously funny.
So good in fact that I plan to send copies to friends interstateN. Cox, Swanbourne.
I need to try and find the cartoon and scan it; it was really fabulous.