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Friday, 11 May 2007

Australian media fights for press freedom

Australia’s major media organisations joined forces on Thursday to fight what they said was the erosion of press freedom in Australia.

Australia was a lightweight democracy that ranked 35th in the world in terms of press freedom, behind Bosnia, Bulgaria, Bolivia and Costa Rica, said John Hartigan, chief of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media operations News Ltd.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Australia 35th on its 2006 press freedom index. Finland was ranked first, Britain 27th, the United States 53rd and last was North Korea at 168th.

Hartigan said restrictions on reporting were increasing in Australia, many linked to heightened security, and there were now 500 different restrictions on media reporting in the country. Australians simply are not getting access to information to make informed decisions, Hartigan told reporters in launching a campaign to get the government to lift reporting restrictions. There has been an alarming slide into censorship and secrecy that has severely reduced what ordinary Australians are allowed to know about how they are governed and how justice is dispensed.