Australian newspapers black out front page in protest over secrecy laws

‘When the government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering up?’ ask publishers

Samuel Osborne
Monday 21 October 2019 18:52 BST
Regional and national papers ran blacked-out front pages
Regional and national papers ran blacked-out front pages

Australia‘s major newspapers published redacted front pages on Monday in protest against legislation restricting press freedoms.

Mastheads from regional and national papers, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and rivals Nine Entertainment, ran front pages with most of the words blacked out.

The front pages were made to look like the copy had been censored in a similar manner to classified government documents.

They asked: “When the government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering?”

It comes after police raided the home of a News Corp journalist and the headquarters of Australian Broadcasting Corp in search of leaked government documents, leading rival media businesses to join together to fight against press restrictions.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliancem, an industry body, accused Australia’s parliament passing laws in the guise of national security that impeded the public’s right to know what the government did in its name.

“Journalism is a fundamental pillar of our democracy,” said Paul Murphy, the chief executive of the industry union. “It exists to scrutinise the powerful, shine a light on wrongdoing and hold governments to account, but the Australian public is being kept in the dark,” he said in a statement.

Examples of secrecy include the government’s refusal to disclose which nursing homes have been found to abuse and neglect elderly residents.

The government also will not disclose how much agricultural land has been sold to foreign entities.

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“Australians should always be suspicious of governments that want to restrict their right to know what’s going on,” News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller said.

The Australian government has previously said press freedom was a “bedrock principle”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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