Reporters Without Borders have released their Press Freedom Index 2011-2012.
The Index operates around a single principle: any State interference with the Press is unconscionable and tyrannical. Regarding Australia, RWB said:
In Australia (30th), the media were subjected to investigations and criticism by the authorities, and were denied access to information [Source: http://en.rsf.org/IMG/CLASSEMENT_2012/C_GENERAL_ANG.pdf]
The cheek of authorities criticising the Press! And investigations?!interrobang?!
Let’s unpack this mystery of Press Unfreedom in Australia. The period in question was 1 December 2010 to 30 November 2011. Thus, it would cover the period where the Australian Government was establishing the Media Inquiry. It would cover the period where The Australian took aim at the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police. It would cover the period where Australia responded to the News of the World phone hacking.
It seems that the inability to tolerate criticism is not a domestic issue.
There are some fundamental issues about the news to which we need answers.
Are news companies part of the entertainment media or are they something different? All of our major news outlets have entertainment branches as sister companies and the overlap between news and ‘infotainment’ is getting larger. Is this appropriate? Is the only news worth knowing entertaining?
Are news companies a fourth estate of a healthy democracy? If so, why do the other estates of a healthy democracy engage in checks and balances but not the news? Why is a free press an unaccountable, irresponsible, unchallengable press?
Finally, what protects the ordinary citizen from the awesome power of the press? Why are we all fair game for their thirst for scoops? Why doesn’t my privacy deserve protection?