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Blacking out your Right to Know

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(Cartoons in this piece by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

On Monday, Australia’s major newspapers decided to stylistically blank out their front pages. It was part of a “media freedom” campaign, aimed at protecting journalists and their sources from prosecution.

Independent Australia supports media freedom, as any responsible publication would. We also fervently believe that, for a responsible democracy to function properly, journalists must not be criminalised for doing their job and genuine whistleblowers must be protected.

But there are aspects of the campaign that do concern IA and make us suspicious about its underlying motivations.

The first thing to note about the campaign is that it is run by the “Right to Know Coalition” — a grouping of Australia’s biggest media organisations and industry groups. This group was started in 2007, in response to the Rudd Government’s plans to establish a body to oversee Australia’s media.

Members of the Right to Know Coalition (Image screenshot yourrighttoknow.com.au)

The second point is that the Right to Know Coalition is run out of News Corp’s Sydney headquarters at 2 Holt Street, Surry Hills, and all its material is authorised by News Corp’s corporate affairs, policy and government relations supremo, infamous former Daily Telegraph editor Campbell "Dead Fish" Reid (note the below).

Perhaps this is not too surprising, given News Corp strides across Australia’s media landscape like a colossus. In any case, it is absolutely certain nothing would happen in the Right to Know Coalition without the specific imprimatur of News Corp. It is, in effect, a subsidiary of News Corp’s corporate and government relations arm. As usual, the rest of Australia’s mainstream media simply straggle along meekly in the beaten down path of the petulant giant.

Which might be fine if News Corp was a benign and responsible organisation, always acting in the public interest. Of course, as anyone who has been following this journal for any length of time would be aware, this is very far from the truth.

In fact, it would appear that News Corp only began to express concerns about “press freedom” under the Coalition Government when one of its journalists, Annika Smethurst, had her house raided by the Australian Federal Police in June, shortly after the last Federal election. Now, the “Right to Know Coalition” has sprung into action.

News Corp was very happy to support vastly increased “anti-terrorism” powers for law enforcement bodies and was instrumental in supporting Home Affairs czar Peter Dutton failed bid become prime minister last year. Only now, however, has it leapt into action to defend “press freedom” It appears that News Corp is indifferent about the rights of Australian citizens and others, such as refugees, only being concerned about its own journalists and their sources.

Yet Smethurst only had her home raided, not her News Corp office, as the AFP did to the ABC, at its Ultimo headquarters, a couple of days after the Smethurst raid. Nevertheless, many may suspect that an organisation described as a “criminal organisation” in Britain’s the Levesons Inquiry after hacking a dead girl’s phone, along with a plethora of other wrongs, might be concerned about police potentially rifling through its files.

Of course, the Leveson Inquiry also exposed the deep links between the UK Conservative Party and News Corp. Given the deep and profound links between News Corp and the Coalition, which appear to operate as two parts of the same organisation, many Government MPs may be similarly concerned about what may be exposed by raids on News Corp offices. Certainly, it would be a precedent they would want to quickly nip in the bud.

It is difficult not to see the current “Right to Know Coalition” campaign as part of an internecine power struggle inside the News Corp and Coalition coalition. A shot across the bows of Peter Dutton’s AFP, to stop them poking their noses into Murdoch’s private business offices, we would expect the Right to Know Coalition to revert back to its previous dormant state.

Independent Australia strongly supports press freedom. But it does not support a campaign led by a self-serving, amoral and deeply corrupt organisation. An organisation tightly in the grip of a foreign billionaire, Rupert Murdoch, who has so many unanswered questions about his own opaque behaviour.

So much for "your right to know".

This editorial was originally published as part of Independent Australia's weekly newsletter, which is normally only available to paid subscribers. It takes less a minute to subscribe to IA and costs as little as $5 a month, or $50 a year — a small sum for superb journalism and many extras.

You can follow David Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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