Australia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Australia

Australia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

19

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

8

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

6

Press freedom operates by convention rather than by constitutional guarantees. The Australian Press Council (APC) continued its efforts to include freedom of expression either in the constitution or in a Bill of Rights based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Journalists' freedom to report and access information is monitored by the APC and the Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance (MEAA). In a November submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Provisions of the Antiterrorism Bill 2005, the MEAA called for a relaxation of the secrecy provisions that imposed a blanket ban against reporting on people detained under the antiterrorism legislation. The provisions allow that journalists may be charged with sedition if they report against the actions of the government, police, or judiciary. However, in response to such pressure, the Parliament added a protective "shield" offering immunity from prosecution to those journalists who report "in good faith." The MEAA submission also urged the adoption of professional privilege for journalists where notice to produce provisions could force journalists to hand over information, including the identity of confidential sources. In October, contempt of court charges were filed against two reporters from the Melbourne-based Herald Sun who refused to divulge the source for a February story on government plans to cut war veteran benefits.

Australia has a strong tradition of public broadcasting, but privately-owned networks retain the majority of television viewers and depend highly upon advertising revenues for profit. Media ownership concentration continues to be of concern, with 75 percent of the market owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd., and the remaining market share held by the Fairfax Group. In 2005, the Parliament abandoned media reforms, including needed adjustments to foreign and cross-ownership laws. Internet use is robust and unrestricted, with an estimated 14 million-plus users.