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Nov 21, 2005

News Limited and free speech

Crikey – along with Media Watch and Jack Waterford of The Canberra Times – has praised the work of The Australian's Freedom of Information Editor Michael McKi

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Crikey – along with Media Watch and Jack
Waterford of The Canberra Times – has praised the work of The Australian’s
Freedom of Information Editor Michael McKinnon and followed his battles against
the bureaucracies that believe their and their masters’ interests come before
the public.

We’ve commended the speech News Limited CEO
John Hartigan gave back in 2003 on defamation, free speech and FOI. And we were heartened by the editorial in The Weekend Australian on Saturday that declared straight out “Restricting free speech won’t defeat terrorism.”

It warned: “there are always politicians and
public servants willing to indulge in a legislative sleight of hand…this is
certainly what appears to be happening with elements of the proposed terror
laws… “There has been a great deal of guff talked about the risk of critics of
government policy being slammed in the stocks under this law. But there is a
vast difference between criticising the government for deploying Australian
troops in Iraq and calling for the violent overthrow of the commonwealth because
of the policy. Mr Ruddock appears to intend the latter, not the former, to be
caught by the law. However, he also says the sedition section of the
legislation can be amended. Then why not wait and get it right the first go?
Once government’s have legislation enacted into law they lose interest in
amendments. But other powers the Government wants even more will give it the
ability to censor the press…”

Great stuff – but why the tone of reporting
of late that has helped the Government push these proposals along in News
Ltd papers? Because it sells the very same products they’re worried might
be censored? Now, there’s a paradox.

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