Why librarians need to stand up for press freedom in Australia

Long before I was a librarian, I wanted to be a journalist. In fact I studied journalism, I worked on volunteer basis for the Salvos as a journalist. I could never quite get paid to do it, so I went off in other directions. Including about five or so years doing admin with the RMIT journalism program.

I have a great affection for journalists and love good journalism. A well written, well researched feature article or any long form journalism is one of life’s great pleasures. I’ve read some truly memorable articles where the story has been thoroughly researched and investigated and the journalist’s skill as a writer and storyteller makes you catch your breath.

The raids and threats on journalists and news organisations should ring alarm bells for everyone. Particularly as the AFP have now said that journalist and new organisations may face charges for printing or broadcasting stories that revealed classified information.

The government have of course said they are committed to freedom of the press and denied that they had anything to do with these “operational decisions” by the AFP.  This might be true but there are questions to be asked about all of this.

These events are a clear threat to Australian democracy and as Kerry O’Brien said on ABC Melbourne radio this morning they go to what’s at the heart of democracy. In a rare show of bipartisan even News Corp via the Australian are saying there is a clear risk to democracy via these action.

As librarians we should be doubled troubled by these events. Librarians believe in freedom of information as one of our core values. In ALIA’s statement on information literacy they state that free flow of information and ideas is central to a thriving democracy.

Journalists and the news media are critical to making sure we have access to information. They find the stories people don’t want told, hold governments to account and give us the tools to be able to participate in the democratic process. If we believe that libraries are vital to the democracy then journalism and the news media are even more so.

Now is not the time to be shy about our common goals of supporting democracy. As an industry we need to stand up and show our unequivocal support for press freedom in Australia. ALIA, as our professional association need to take a strong and vocal position, on behalf of all us who are outraged and worried by these events.






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