The War On Media Freedom

The Australian Labor/Green government has proven to be no friend of freedom. Along with the various Labor state governments, we have seen many freedoms being whittled away. All sorts of legislation, such as vilification laws, anti-discrimination laws, and so on, have all taken their toll on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion.

Now things are set to get a whole lot worse. The government has just released some proposals, based on a 400-page report by former leftist judge Ray Finkelstein. It wants to seek draconian powers to clamp down on the media, including even such things as blog sites and Facebook. Bloggers such as Andrew Bolt and myself for example could be directly targeted and silenced.

A report in the Weekend Australian makes for frightening reading. It begins this way: “Print and online news will come under direct federal government oversight for the first time under proposals issued yesterday to create a statutory regulator with the power to prosecute media companies in the courts.

“The historic change to media law would break with tradition by using government funds to replace an industry council that acts on complaints, in a move fiercely opposed by companies as a threat to the freedom of the press. The proposals, issued yesterday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, also seek to widen the scope of federal oversight to cover print, online, radio and TV within a single regulator for the first time.

“Bloggers and other online authors would also be captured by a regime applying to any news site that gets more than 15,000 hits a year, a benchmark labelled ‘seriously dopey’ by one site operator. The head of the review, former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein, rejected industry warnings against setting up a new regulator under federal law with funding from government.

“The major newspaper companies were unanimous in opposing a statutory regulator under federal law, with Kerry Stokes’s Seven West Media declaring it was inconsistent with the notion of a free press. Media companies also warned that government funding for the new regulator would undercut the workings of a healthy democracy, with APN News & Media bluntly opposing any increase in regulation.”

Not surprisingly the Greens are fully in favour of such restrictive and freedom-inhibiting measures: “Greens leader Bob Brown urged the government to establish its new media watchdog so it could enforce standards across print, online, radio and television platforms by the end of the year.”

Now I have not yet read the 400-page report, and it is early days yet. But already many are expressing their concerns. Andrew Bolt for example says this about the 15,000 hits blog concept: “That comes to just 41 hits a day, which could be racked up by, say, 10 interested people, clicking a few pages each. And what this tiny band write for each other is now to be policed by men from the government, acting on complaints from activists, busybodies and the eagerly aggrieved.

“It’s easy to say that only the guilty need fear the consequences. But who the hell has the right to define ‘guilty’? Since when was free speech a threat – and a bigger threat than controls on it? Can even ‘responsible’ free speech flourish when the process of regulation is the punishment? Already it is easier for me and you to shut up about some subjects than to be forced to justify our statements to a tribunal, generally staffed by people of hostile political views.

“Just this aspect of the report defines for me the essential nature of the Finkelstein inquiry’s bid for ‘control’ of what’s written and broadcast – its gross impertinence, deep intrusiveness and only arbitrarily defined restraint on its passion to control the free speech of others.

“And be warned. In writing even this I have taken a professional risk. In no genuinely free society should I be scared to speak like this. Nor should you. Defend free speech while you still have what’s left.”

Obviously I have some vested interests in all this. I of course have a blog and it certainly gets more than 15,000 hits a year – way more. So CultureWatch will also be subject to the government censors. The truth is, there exist plenty of secular lefties who would love to see this site permanently shut down, along with many other sites.

If Big Brother gets involved in this process of weeding out politically incorrect speech then we are all in trouble big time. This certainly will be the end of democracy and free speech in Australia. This is of such great concern that already groups have been formed to resist this statist move. One such group is Free Speech Australia which can be found here:

As it says on its homepage: “Freedom of speech is VITAL for any democracy to function. The right to speak freely without fear of prosecution or government censorship is at the core of our society. Yet freedom of speech in Australia is now under serious threat.

“A government-commissioned report just announced plans to create a multi-million dollar super-regulator to control not just mainstream media in Australia, but websites, private blogs and even Twitter and Facebook as well! Under this proposal, any online site that involves the ‘public dissemination’ of information that gets more than 40 hits a day will be subject to Big Brother censorship and regulation!!!

“Even worse, the SuperRegulator ‘would not have to give reasons for its decisions’ and the decisions ‘would not be subject to appeal.’ This super-regulator is a threat to people on all sides of the political spectrum: This is not a matter or right or left – this is a matter of right and wrong.”

This is very scary stuff indeed; real Big brother stuff – something every one of us should be greatly concerned about, and willing to speak up about before we no longer have the right to speak out.

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25 Replies to “The War On Media Freedom”

  1. I am happy to be the first to comment here:

    “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” -General Douglas MacArthur

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  2. Dear Bill, the 400 page report looks to me like the Communist and Nazi restrictions on”disinformation”. People who set up dictacts of thought eventually lose their credibility.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  3. For more on this see here:

    “If Finkelstein’s proposals are adopted, all news websites, newspapers and magazines would have to sign up to and comply with the News Media Council’s standards of conduct. If they refuse, they would be taken to court and punished ‘in the usual way’. This might not be called ‘licensing’ but it is virtually the same thing. What happens if a blogger rejects the standards or refuses to delete something? Eventually, after contempt of court proceedings, they could be jailed.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Just signed the petition on the site. Everyone else concerned should also do the same and get family and friends to do so.

    I will also be contacting my Federal Member on this.

    This is such a disgrace.

    Damien Spillane

  5. I never thought I’d live to see the day that the freedom of speech in Australian society could be curtailed by the Government of the day. It just goes to show how afraid this Labor Government is of the very people of Australia. This could ban any comments by an opposing political party informing Australians of duplicity on the party of Government in power at the time. It is the beginning of the communist state in Australia.
    Joan Davidson

  6. “When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].”
    -Abraham Lincoln

    Ian Nairn

  7. Why should people be surprised at this more by the Labor government, and especially the current prime minister. After all when we have a prime minister who is also a fully signed up member of the “Fabian Society” who’s goal it is is “One World Government” brought in by stealth, should we be surprised at anything that Julia Gillard will do?
    Jeuel Pavitt

  8. So exactly how long do you think we have before the Greens and Labor decide that only their two parties qualify to run in elections?
    Annette Williams

  9. Does anyone remember when Juliar told reporters that she was never a communist, when confronted with her secretarial duties at the socialist organisation?

    Remember that we got told, “don’t worry, she will never bring in communist ideas”. Some who saw right through her comrade lie fest tried to sound the warning bells, but were howled down with “sexist” remarks. Too late to say “I told you so” I suppose?

    I am starting to think we need a petition to get her and bob tried for treason against this country. I wonder if such can be done against a sitting PM?

    Neil Waldron

  10. Clearly Mr Finklestein is not satisfied with the self censorship and bias already shown by the Mainstream Media. Let’s hope they wake up to the threat his new proposal poses to freedom of speech and campaign against it.

    Neil’s suggestion of a petition is a good start.

    Alan Williams, UK

  11. I truly am gobsmacked – I cannot believe that I lived to see the day when there would be a government move to silence the masses. And all the time I thought the incompetence of Juliar Gillard and her band of misfits had no idea what they were doing and she had no plan to follow – but now it’s obvious that George Orwell’s “1984” sits on her night table.
    Garth Penglase

  12. If Bob Brown thinks it’s a good idea, you know its bad news. The government has no business interfering in the press and blogosphere.

    An election can not come soon enough!

    Peter Sanderson

  13. Hello Bill,
    What the “bottom line” is in this attempt to silence the media, is Satan attempting to silence the voice of Christians who stand against all he stands for.
    Well, one thing he will never do, and that is stop us from praying against all the evil he has created in this world.
    And loving those who are not saved!
    God bless,
    Paul de la Garde, Sydney

  14. Hello Bill,
    It would be a safe bet that if these recommendations become law, there will be many lefties patrolling the web, all looking to be eagerly offended.
    Brett Gillie

  15. Another terrific article on this matter, this time from the UK:

    ?”Let’s allow lefties like Pinkie Finkie and Gillard and Tim Flannery and Bob Brown their hour in the sun because the longer they stay there, the more damage they do and the more damage they will be seen to have done. This is important. (The same applies to Obama’s US; sadly it’s not going to work here, not with Cameron poisoning the wells for Conservatism for ever). If Australia is to get the government it needs (and deserves) it must first experience the full horror of the government it doesn’t deserve. The more easily ordinary people can see just how authoritarian, petty-minded, bullying, meddling and grotesquely biased the left can be when it holds the reins of power, the more enthusiastic they’ll be about throwing the bastards into the croc pit come 2013. (Or sooner, if we’re lucky.)”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  16. And another good piece:

    “The Finkelstein Review and the countless examples of free speech restriction that Mark Steyn so entertainingly outlines have shown me the danger of remaining silent – even if it’s “just for now”. Because free speech is not actually “free”. It is maintained by a vigilant citizenry prepared to question political orthodoxy. We must all be prepared to stand up and be counted, to rail against this sort of overtly-political censorship, and to argue for our own beliefs rather than a collectivist view handed down from the powers that be.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. And see also here:

    “Brown, whose party has been exposed as receiving the biggest single donation from an individual donor, is currently under investigation by the Senate. He doesn’t want his relationship with the donor exposed and questions asked about what services the Greens may have provided the donor in return for his generous support. Of course he wants the media muzzled. This is one issue on which the Australian public should be as one. Only those who favour a government-controlled media would welcome the censorial hand of Finkelstein and the government interfering with the press.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  18. It may come down to leaflet dropping in order to be able to share righteous views.
    Mario Del Giudice

  19. It may, but I’m sure it’s harder to police 🙂

    Mario Del Giudice

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