JERAA Executive Statements 2015

By JERAA

 

JERAA applauds champions of free speech 3 May 2015 

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day

On World Press Freedom Day, the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) applauds those who champion freedom of expression and support media around the world.

Journalists and other media workers play a pivotal role in developing and sustaining democratic, prosperous and just societies. Journalism acts as a watchdog over power, supports public processes and public life, mediates public debate, and airs the views and perspectives of different community constituents.

There are many forces that attempt to silence journalists around the world – political factions, business interests, criminal gangs, and terrorists, among others.

JERAA expresses praise and solidarity for those who persist in the struggle to create and circulate accurate and balanced media reports on issues of public importance in the face of obstacles, threats and harassment.

Most of the members of JERAA are university-based lecturers and researchers who, through teaching, research and community service, contribute to processes that support free, independent journalism.

In recognition on World Press Freedom JERAA calls on the Australian media and government to continue to raise awareness and seek solutions to these and other media freedom issues:

  • The Indonesian Government continues to ban foreign journalists from entering and reporting on events in its troubled West Papua provinces. Two French journalists were detained and held for 11 weeks by the Indonesian Government in 2014. They were released after being convicted of breaking immigration laws to report on unrest in the area. In a worrying new development the government of neighbouring Papua New Guinea appears to have been pressured to follow suit in restricting reporting about West Papua. In March 2015, PNG officials told journalists covering an official visit by Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi not to ask questions about West Papua.
  • Alan Morison is an Australian journalist due to face trial in July in Thailand. He and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathien are facing a long jail term in Thailand for reprinting part of a controversial, award-winning article from Reuters about people smuggling.
  • While the release of Peter Greste from custody in Egypt was welcome news in February, the future of his colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed is far from secure as they are still facing trial.

JERAA also notes that in 2015 Australia was ranked 25th by the RSF Press Freedom Index, and was not awarded a higher rank because the National Security Legislation Amendment in October 2014 not only rendered the national security service immune from prosecution for a wide range of illegal activities but also imposed a blanket ban on coverage of its “special operations”, with imprisonment as the penalty for violators.  (Source:http://index.rsf.org/#!/themes/national-security-spurious-grounds ). In addition the new data retention laws have raised concerns about the viability of shield law protection of journalist’s sources.

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Educators call for clear social media guidelines 28 April 2015

JERAA, as a body representing academics teaching the next generation of journalists in Australia, believes the sacking of SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre over a series of tweets regarding the ANZAC commemoration again highlights the need for greater guidance for journalists over social media.

Many have noted MacIntyre made his comments on an account that promoted his work for SBS, a public broadcaster.

However JERAA supports an educational approach to journalists embroiled in such public speech controversies.

JERAA notes that social media platforms are new communicative spaces that provide for rapid, reactive individual publishing with little or no editorial oversight.

In these rapidly evolving environments the personal interests and professional roles of journalists are merging – requiring all reporters, regardless of their specialization, to undergo advanced workplace training in online communications law and social speech expectations.

Publishing organisations must also recognise that social media protocols alone do not serve to clearly regulate this self-publishing, and indeed are as Human Rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, has recently argued  “a grey area” of employment contract.

Thus for the regulatory enforcement of social media policies to have best effect, they must be accompanied by training, mediation and counselling.

In the interests of protecting free speech principles, and journalists’ interests in social media innovation, JERAA calls for improved workplace training in social media speech, together with considered handling of public speech controversies and breaches of social media guidelines.

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Welcome home Peter Greste 2 February 2015

The JERAA welcomes Peter Greste back to Australia. Peter has finally been released from gaol in Egypt. He may not have received a presidential pardon but the president’s decision to deport him means at least that he is free after 400 days in prison. Wonderful news for Peter. But let us not forget his colleagues who are still behind bars.

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