Australia dailies redact front pages to protest media curbs

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SYDNEY: Australia’s biggest newspapers ran front pages on Monday made up to appear heavily redacted, in a protest against legislation that restricts press freedoms, a rare show of unity by the usually partisan media industry.
Australia has no constitutional safeguards for free speech, although the government added a provision to protect whistleblowers when it strengthened counter-espionage laws in 2018. Media groups say press freedoms remain restricted.
Mastheads from the domestic unit of Rupert Murdoch’s conservative News Corp and fierce newspaper rivals at Nine Entertainment ran front pages with most of the words blacked out, giving the impression the copy had been censored, in the manner of a classified government document. “When government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering up?” was the question that ran on the cover of newspapers including Australian, owned by Murdoch and the liberal Fairfax dailies. The campaign for media freedom is a rare moment of unity in Australia’s tightly-held sector.
Parliament has long been passing laws in the guise of national security that impeded the public’s right to know what the government did in its name, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said. The laws fall under an umbrella of secrecy that consecutive Australian governments have created over nearly two decades. No other developed democracy has as strong a stranglehold on its secrets as Australia.
The protest aimed to put public pressure on the government to exempt journalists from laws limiting access to sensitive information, enact a properly functioning freedom of information system, and raise the benchmark for defamation lawsuits. Communications minister Paul Fletcher did not respond to questions. The government has previously said press freedom was a “bedrock principle”.

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