Union’s press freedom report covers key issues

By MARK PEARSON (@journlaw)

The Australian journalism union has released its annual review of press freedom, with thoughtful perspectives from journalists and media lawyers on the state of free expression in 2011.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has been producing these reports for the past seven years, and the archive is available here.

Human rights advocate and barrister Julian Burnside breaks the Wikileaks saga down into its component parts to distinguish between the leaking of classified government material and the publishing of such leaked material.

Freedom of information guru, FoI editor for the Seven network Michael McKinnon, assesses reformed laws at Commonwealth and State level to determine whether they have improved transparency. He gives examples showing the lengths to which bureaucrats will go to resist release of public documents.

Veteran political correspondent Laurie Oakes analyses new federal shield laws and Queensland whistleblower protection laws but warns against complacency in the new regime.

Founder of Crikey.com Stephen Mayne demonstrates that concentration of media ownership is alive and well by mapping the ‘cosy club of associated billionaires’ running the show in Australia.

ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes takes up the prickly issue of racial commentary and assesses whether a complaint about columnist Andrew Bolt’s comments about indigenous leaders threatens free speech.

Canberra Times writer Markus Mannheim reviews the Rudd-Gillard governments’ attempts to improve transparency in the public service.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist and author David Marr revisits a bizarre decision by the broadcast regulator ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) about a television expose of a politician’s sexual preference.  He argues the Seven network’s story and the subsequent copout by the regulator add weight to the push for stronger privacy laws.

The MEAA has produced a useful annual resource for the media law researcher and press freedom advocate and it is heartening to see high calibre media and law commentators making such important contributions.

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