FEW people outside of Narooma would care a jot if the Narooma News launched a one-newspaper crusade against growing threats to press freedoms in Australia.
But when we join a campaign supported by every Australian Community Media masthead, Nine, News Corp, the ABC, SBS, The Guardian, and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, then you would hope lawmakers might start to take notice.
Australia's Right To Know launched a cross-media campaign with prime-time television advertisements on Sunday night and censored newspaper front pages across the country on Monday morning to illustrate the dangers of increasing federal government secrecy, and to urge all Australians to stand up for their right to know.
The campaign does not seek to put journalists and the media above the law and it does not seek to damage national security.
The campaign recognises there is information that should rightly be kept from public discussion but also seeks to highlight the potential damage to a democracy that can come from allowing governments to blur the lines between national security and national embarrassment.
The public has a right to know about abuses of power and mismanagement which, under current laws, governments effectively have the power to cover up.
Journalists should be freed from the threat of jail for doing their jobs which has been written into many of the 75 anti-terrorism laws passed since 2001.
Australia also needs to give better protection to the whistleblowers inside the bureaucracy who leak information to journalists that is in the public interest. Similarly, a review is urgently needed of Freedom of Information legislation, which is now so slow and easily obstructed that it has become a joke.
For some years now there has been a veil of secrecy being slowly drawn over Australia's press freedoms, with the creeping restrictions barely noticeable from the outside.
That all changed with the high-profile raids on journalists' homes earlier this year and the nation's media has now been compelled to respond.
The Australian public's right to know can only be guaranteed by the free media's right to know. And if Australia's often-feuding media organisations can stand together to demand change, then the Australian public should stand beside them.
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