Media

Mar 5, 2014

Media briefs: MEAA democracy … Oscar puns and Q&A …

Death of democracy at the MEAA? ... Slave headlines in poor taste ... Correction of the day ...

Death of democracy at the MEAA? After 15 years at the helm of the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, federal secretary Chris Warren recently announced he won’t contest the next election for the role, due next year. But it appears the union — which represents journalists, actors and musicians — may not hold an election at all.

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  1. Brendan Jones

    If I was a journalist, I’m not sure I’d bother joining the MEAA. The MEAA did advocate for shield laws to protect journalists – good, but in other areas the MEAA have – in my opinion – let their members down:

    I asked the MEAA to comment on paper on the relationship between whistleblowers and journalists. In particular, the reasons why journalists are reluctant to cover whistleblowers stories. But the MEAA refused.

    I wrote back to the MEAA “I hope you reconsider. We’re on the same side here and I’m trying to make it easier for your members to work without threat or intimidation. AFAIK Defamation is the biggest threat to journalists face. Stephen Mayne lost his house over defamation. Surely Alliance [MEAA] has a position on this?”

    Response: crickets chirping.

    BTW Here’s a list of defamation cases compiled by Stephen Mayne: http://www.maynereport.com/articles/2009/03/10-1024-2493.html

    Here’s the ABC’s Chris Masters on defamation: Journalists and broadcasters are just not going to do stories when defamation proceedings become as arduous and lengthy as this one was” … “The hardest things that I ever did in my career were not to do with gathering the story in the first place but in defending it … The worst thing is the emotional burden waking up every day knowing you’ve got court matters to deal with … it gets to a point where it can be extremely demoralising. You begin to say to yourself, I didn’t get into this to be a professional witness or professional defendant.” “I call it my death by a 1000 courts. The emotional drain tends to be understood only by those who experience it. You watch your morale and assets erode all the while surrounded by lawyers who are having the time of their lives. Horrible.” http://victimsofdsto.com/online/#freespeech

    To me it seems defamation is a a problem very relevant to journalists. (The paper was published here http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Jones13.pdf Evan Whitton has written on how defamation is used to silence journalists here: http://netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf p129- In the US journalists are protected when reporting public interest stories, because in the words of SCOTUS Justice Hugo Black, anything less would result in the wholesale destruction of the press. Yet the MEAA has ‘no comment’? Fascinating…)

    And then there is Michaela Banerji aka “LaLegale”; the public servant sacked for tweeting an opinion critical of the government.

    Civil Liberties Australia, who said they can only take on one case a year and were working on a wrongful imprisonment case, recommended that being an MEAA member she ask the MEAA to represent her given her sackings obvious free speech implications.

    MEAA is a strong supporter of free speech, right?

    But the MEAA refused. Michaela Banerji said she was simply amazed that MEAA and CPSU (the Commonwealth public sector union) did not want to be involved. She had been a member of both unions since 1996. She thought they would have both have an interest here.

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