JERAA Executive Statements 2017

By JERAA

 

JERAA statement about the arrest of Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island 23 November 2017

JERAA wishes to express its deep concern about reports that Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-Kurdish journalist and regular contributor to Australian publications, was arrested on Manus Island early on Thursday 23 November.

He was released later in the day.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) chief executive, Paul Murphy, said Boochani appeared to have been deliberately targeted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) police in Thursday’s crackdown because he is well known as a journalist reporting from inside the detention centre.

“Behrouz has been one of the main sources of factual information about conditions inside the Manus Island detention centre for the past few years, and his reporting has been published in Australia and internationally,” Mr Murphy said.

“His reporting in the finest traditions of journalism has been critical when the Australian and PNG governments have done everything they can to prevent media from having access to the asylum seekers on Manus Island.

“If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.

Like the MEAA, JERAA calls on the Australian and PNG governments to release Boochani from custody, inform the public about his safety, and allow him to continue doing the journalistic work he has been for so many months.

Just three weeks ago, Boochani was awarded the Amnesty International Australian Media Award for his journalism from Manus Island. JERAA president, Matthew Ricketson, was a guest speaker at the awards in Sydney, and testified to the loud applause that greeted the award as well as the heartfelt admiration of his colleague at Guardian Australia, Ben Doherty, who accepted the award in Boochani’s absence.

Professor Ricketson said: “Behrouz Boochani’s reporting has been brave and inspiring, not least because he has been pursuing it while at the same time he has been detained indefinitely.

“Governments for nearly two decades now have been fighting determinedly to hide from public view – and the possibility of public empathy – what has been happening inside offshore detention centres. Boochani’s reporting is a vital counterweight to this campaign”.

Earlier this year, MEAA, the journalists’ union, co-ordinated an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, calling for him to be resettled in Australia. Dozens of high-profile journalists and writers co-signed the open letter.

Boochani’s work has been published in The Saturday Paper as well as Guardian Australia, while his film about life inside the Manus detention centre, Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time has been screened at the Sydney and London film festivals. He tweets at @BehrouzBoochani

Congratulations John Henningham

John Henningham of Brisbane’s JSchool has been acknowledged for his 40 years of service by being awarded the Clarion for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism. The Courier Mail reports: The judges commented: “It is difficult to over-emphasise the impact that John Henningham has had on Australian journalism… John broke ground by gaining the first Australian doctorate in journalism and becoming the country’s first journalism professor, then continued his pioneering work with JSchool, which for decades has imparted the professional skills that young journalists need, coupled with rigorous academic teaching.”

JERAA Evidence at the ‘Future of Public Interest Journalism’ Inquiry

The JERAA Executive has lodged a submission and three executive members have appeared as expert witnesses for the Senate Select Committee that is inquiring into the Future of Public Interest Journalism. JERAA’s submission included discussion and recommendations plus an appendix that explored models from other countries. It focused on three terms of reference:

  • ensuring a viable, independent and diverse service;
  • the future of public and community broadcasters in delivering public interest journalism, particularly in underserviced markets like regional Australia, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
  • examination of ‘fake news’, propaganda, and public disinformation

The JERAA Executive was represented by Angela Romano, Alex Wake and Colleen Murrell at a public hearing on 11 July 2017. A record of events is available via Hansard. Romano also lodged a summary of research about the impact of public broadcasting in response to a question on notice about the activities of the ABC and SBS, in particular their effect on the financial well-being of private media.

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Letter to the Walkley Awards Committee 3 July 2017

Re: decision by the Walkley Awards Committee to scrap the ‘International Journalism’ category from the 2017 Awards.

We are writing on behalf of members of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) to express our objection to the decision to exclude the category of ‘International Journalism’ from this year’s Walkley Awards. As journalism educators we fully acknowledge the need to embrace the changing nature of journalism in a multiplatform environment, however certain genres of reporting deserve to be recognised for the particular skills, risks and importance of the role performed – reportage by Australian foreign correspondents in the international arena is one of those important genres.

In the announcement made by the Walkey Advisory Board about the changes, it is difficult to discern the rationale for removing international reporting on the one hand, while maintaining a separate category for local and regional reporting on the other. (https://medium.com/the-walkley- magazine/journalism-is-changing-so-the-walkley-awards-are-too-3403590b85dd) Removing this category serves to further undermine this important area of journalism that is increasingly under threat from governments and non-government actors in many parts of the world who seek to reduce the presence of international journalists. The ongoing fighting in countries like Iraq and Syria shows how hard it is to source independent and reliable reporting about conflicts which affect us all in an increasingly globalised world. The reduction of scrutiny in these areas is of serious concern to international NGOs such as the International Committee of the Red Cross which has been trying to draw attention to this issue. The people who are prepared to work in hostile environments, despite the danger, should be honoured by us and their work should be acknowledged.

While today Australian media organisations may have fewer correspondents based in bureaux abroad, there is still a significant amount of journalism that is being generated by reporters travelling to stories that are under-reported or ignored. Having ‘boots on the ground’ remains the gold standard for reporting overseas as it garners eye-witness testimony to events and guarantees independent investigation. While local reporters also play a key part in getting information to global screens, they cannot do as effective a job as Australian reporters at framing it in a context that speaks to our specific understanding.

The international reporting category has brought us powerful reporting over the years, and has also taken out the Gold Walkley. The reporting of wars, conflicts, revolutions, and dramatic events, such as the ‘Boxing Day Tsunami’ (2004) are testimony to the importance of this category. Overseas, other organisations that uphold strong journalism continue to keep a separate prize for this reporting. The Pulitzer Prize in the USA has categories in local reporting, national reporting and International reporting. The UK Press Awards retain the ‘Foreign Reporter of the Year’ award, sponsored by Reuters.

We urge you to reconsider this decision and to re-establish the category of ‘International Journalism’ to ensure peer recognition of this often dangerous and logistically difficult genre of reporting that is under threat from hostile governments, weakening news organisations and now its own media union.Signed by the JERAA Executive on behalf of its members, in particular those (listed below) who have written to us over the past few days to express their disagreement with this decision:

Wendy Bacon/Journalist and Researcher

Catriona Bonfiglioli/UTS

Kathryn Bowd/University of Adelaide

Kayt Davies/Edith Cowan University

Lee Duffield/QUT

Caroline Fisher/Canberra University

Amy Forbes/James Cook University

Janet Fulton/Newcastle University

Johan Lidberg/Monash University

Bonita Mason/Curtin University

Colleen Murrell/Monash University

Chris Nash/Monash University

Roger Patching/Journalism Researcher

Prof Mark Pearson/ Gritth University

Jenna Price/UTS

Ian Richards/UNISA

Matthew Ricketson/Deakin University

David Robie/AUT

Angela Romano/QUT

Lynette Sheridan Burns/Western Sydney University

Jolyon Sykes/Journalism Researcher

Helen Vatsikopoulos/UTS

Alex Wake/RMIT

Lawrie Zion/La Trobe University

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World Press Freedom Day 2 May 2017

There never appears to be a shortage of reasons to call people’s attention to World Press Freedom day.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) issues its annual audit of press freedom in Australia on Wednesday 3 May and last Friday the union’s chief executive officer, Paul Murphy, reminded those attending a fund-raising dinner in Sydney of the urgency of issues facing not only the Australia news media but in many other countries.

I’d urge you to read both the MEAA’s report and Murphy’s speech, especially as the latter was given just hours after the head of the Australian Federal Police, Andrew Colvin, acknowledged that AFP officers had, without a warrant – that is, unlawfully – intercepted a journalist’s phone call records held under the federal government’s controversial metadata retention regime.

The possibility that such a breach might happen was predicted when the metadata legislation was passed under the previous federal coalition government. But there is little sense of vindication that the forecast came true when you consider the chilling effect such legislation – and its abuse – might be having on those inside organisations willing to risk livelihood, or more, by becoming journalists’ confidential sources to disclose corruption or malfeasance.

This threat to press freedom in Australia is far more serious than that posed by whatever shortcomings may exist in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act but rather than engage in further circular debate about that particular factory of confected outrage I prefer to point you to three stories I’ve read or heard in the past week that all underscore the reason we need a free press in the first place.

None of them was what Bob Woodward of The Washington Post famously calls a “Holy shit!” story but all of them told me something I didn’t know, and that, of course, is one of the definitions of news.

On ABC Radio National’s program, “The Money”, last Thursday Richard Aedy interviewed several psychologists and social scientists who have been researching the impact of money on our approach to life and our attitudes, both overt and unconscious, towards others. Among the startling findings were that the wealthier people became the less they are able to emphathise with others, and that wealthy people are more likely to behave unethically. This may sound like class envy but the findings were based on psychological tests with large, randomly chosen sample populations.

Next, in The Monthly’s April issue, Paddy Manning explored and explained the tortuous – and still tortured – path of the National Broadband Network (NBN), from its inception under the Rudd Labor government to the headaches it faces today under Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government. In a long piece headlined “Network error: what will be the cost of a patchwork NBN?”, Manning shows how difficult it is for any government to create infrastructure in a country as large and sparsely populated as Australia, especially when technology is advancing so rapidly. More pungently, though, he shows us the toxic effect of political opportunism and short-term thinking. It is entirely possible, he writes, that when the NBN is finally completed it will need to be ripped out and replaced – at a cost of many billions of taxpayers’ dollars.

Finally, in the current Quarterly Essay, “The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race”, David Marr, with customary eloquence, looks at the second coming of Pauline Hanson. What is most interesting, though, is his use of quantitative and qualitative survey data, not for the purpose of fuelling the political news cycle but to understand who votes for One Nation, and why. The results are surprising, and his discussion takes us well beyond labels of redneck racism.

Yes, it is critically important to call out threats to press freedom; it is equally important to avail ourselves of what that freedom provides: incisive, revelatory, nuanced and thought-provoking journalism.

So, please read or listen to these pieces. Discuss them, argue with them by all means, share them, act on them. As the preamble to the MEAA code of ethics states, journalists “inform citizens and animate democracy”. Our job, as educators and researchers, is to help prepare students to create more such journalism, and to ask questions about what it means to animate democracy and what happens when that is threatened.

(JERAA President Matthew Ricketson May 2, 2017)

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Student journalists denied access to Budget 2 May 2017

The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) condemns the Federal Government’s decision to deny student media access to next week’s annual Federal Budget media lock up.

Student media have covered the budget for years, attending the media lock-up alongside mainstream news outlets. Some represent publications run by university Journalism schools while others are there for campus-based student publications.

JERAA President Professor Matthew Ricketson said “Covering the annual Federal Budget provides students with real-world reporting experience. It is invaluable preparation for anyone wanting a career in the news media”.

“Politicians and commentators are forever urging universities to tone down the theory and make their courses industry-relevant. Here are students wanting to do just that and they’ve been denied access. It’s dismaying, and annoying – for the students and for us as educators”.

Among those barred is SYN Media, a Melbourne youth-based organization that broadcasts an award winning political program each Saturday called Represent.

Budgets and elections are major calendar items for SYN’s political program Represent and news and current affairs program Panorama. Student volunteers from the network have attended the budget lock-up in Canberra every year for at least the past three years.

Both programs are key training grounds for student journalists many of whom have gone on to careers in the nation’s major news outlets.

Represent also won the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia Award – Excellence in Digital Media – 2015 for its Federal Budget Night coverage.

Journalism and other students are worried the denial of access might be linked to the federal government’s plans for the budget to cut university funding, increase the cost of programs to students, and change the payment threshold for HECs debts .

SYN Media received the news yesterday in an email from the Media Unit – Communications Division of Treasury that said: “Due to space restrictions the decision was made to limit the lock-up to professional news publications only – unfortunately, we do not have the capacity for the thousands of possible organisations and outlets that might like to attend.”

Sources in the parliamentary press gallery told JERAA late yesterday this rationale was questionable as there were still places available to media outlets.

Professor Ricketson said JERAA had contacted Treasurer Scott Morrison’s media office to put the case for students and he was hopeful Treasury officials would overturn the decision to deny access in time for next Tuesday’s budget.

“The irony of this decision being made on the eve of World Press Freedom day is not lost on anyone connected with JERAA. It is a salutary reminder that the need for press freedom extends beyond the mainstream news media to community media and to the next generation of journalists now being trained”.

(JERAA President, on behalf of the Executive, May 2, 2017)

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 Australian Press Council and MEAA statements on World Press Day 2017

Australian Press Council’s chair David Weisbrot has also issued a statement for World Press Day which states in part:  ““The Press Council notes with great dismay the Australian government’s decision to restrict access by student journalists and community media to its budget lock-up this year.” The full Press Council’s statement can be found here.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has issued The Chilling Effect: The Report into the State of Press Freedom in Australia in 2017

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