World Press Freedom Day 2022 

By Alex Wake, JERAA President


This World Press Freedom Day I’d like to thank all the journalism academics, educators and researchers, who maintain the fight for better quality journalism in Australia and across the world.

There is much to vex journalism academics in 2022: continued attacks on the professionalism of journalists; physical and cyber attacks on journalists for just doing their jobs; a lack of support  by government and, to be frank, some sections of the industry for university education of journalists; massive issues with the  concentration of the Australian media market; a tsunami of mis- and dis-information; and the continued detention of Australian journalists overseas in China (Cheng Lei) and the UK (Julian Assange).

Instead of cowering under the weight of these issues Australian journalism academics remain overwhelming positive with our students for a profession which desperately needs allies. That’s not to say that journalism academics are uncritical friends, as there is much in the current media landscape to criticise, but I remain impressed by those in the academy who can frame criticism of a fragile industry in a way that improves the work, rather than simply chastise further.

So this year, I’d like to thank each and every academic who: turns up to a journalism class to inspire students to tell important stories; takes time and care to provide thoughtful and considered feedback to students struggling with the 5Ws and the H or the ethics of reporting  live on a flooded community; provide service to the profession by being judges or serving on a community radio or tv station board; give quality advice to government on ways of supporting journalism; and for doing internationally ground-breaking research on every issue from decolonising journalism to new ways of paying for journalism.

We are clearly in the middle of an election campaign, and media policy has had little real attention, even if the behaviour of many sections of the media has been called into question. There are many matters that should be being discussed including the need for a proper restoration of funds to the ABC and SBS, and the end of punitive higher education charges for journalism students.

Perhaps as individual voters we should be looking at each party’s policies against this list from the International Press Institute’s 10 recommendations for the world’s democracies:

  1. Protect press freedom at home.
  2. Avoid enacting or applying laws that can be modelled by authoritarian regimes to restrict the press.
  3. Ensure regulation of social media and online spaces is consistent with international human rights standards.
  4. Ensure that the fight against disinformation is not used to restrict freedom of expression, which gives cover to repressive regimes to do much worse.
  5. Refrain from engaging in or enabling unlawful surveillance of journalists and civil society.
  6. Show zero tolerance for attacks on the press.
  7. Support multilateral institutions and mechanisms that defend human rights and press freedom.
  8. Support the work of civil society organizations that promote and defend press freedom.
  9. Make the promotion and protection of press freedom core elements of foreign policy – and hold other governments accountable for crimes against journalists or attacks on the media.
  10. Create an enabling environment for press freedom.

Finally, if you haven’t already read it, can I recommend the piece by Tim Dunlop on the Soft Power of Mainstream Media in Meanjin. It’s a nice piece for academic musing on this important day for press freedom.

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