Australian media are free, but freedom can be limited, a new report warns

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Freedom of press in Australia has not deteriorated but country may be moving toward important changes in their press freedom conditions, a new report “Press Freedom Dark Horizon” by the prominent human rights organization Freedom House warned.

Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 amid unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders.

Analysts of Freedom House put Australia on a list of “Countries to Watch” along with Cambodia, Egypt, Philippines and the United States.

Australia is ranked 22 on the freedom list, where 0 means total freedom. The most free country in the world is Norway, which ranks 8, followed by Sweden and Netherlands with 11. Next are Belgium, Denmark and Finland with 12.

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Among major concerns authors of the report named: “authorities’ aggressive leak investigations, including use of a telecommunications law to collect journalists’ metadata without a warrant.” This type of behavior “could have a chilling effect on the country’s robust media sector”, report warned.

Freedom House authors emphasize negative attitude of President of the United States towards media. “Donald Trump disparaged the press, rejecting the news media’s role in holding governments to account for their words and actions.”

Report designates 66 countries with 45 percent of global population as not free. The list of the biggest violators of freedom of press opens North Korea followed by three Russian controlled or influenced regions and states Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and occuppied Crimea. Cuba, Iran and Syria are also on that list.

Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a Free press—that is, a media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

(pht)

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