Report – By Daniel Drageset
A media law specialist has called for a boost in support for media organisations in the defence of media freedom in Australia and New Zealand instead of taking it for granted in a message on World Press Freedom Day.
Professor Mark Pearson of Griffith University, who is delivering the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day lecture at AUT University in Auckland tonight, had earlier also given a message about Pacific media freedom.
Many people in New Zealand and Australia have hardly heard about World Press Freedom Day, coordinated by UNESCO all over the globe today – May 3.
The day serves to remind the world to uphold the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom.
Professor Pearson’s address will start at 5:30 pm with live streaming: http://tinyurl.com/cryjgu6
No easy fix
Pearson argues that supporting institutions which promote press freedom, may lead to an increased interest in the day and have positive effects on press freedom:
I’m not sure there is an easy fix for media freedom, but one thing is certainly that groups, or institutions, like the Pacific Media Centre, Reporters Without Borders, Transparency International, these sorts of organisations, can forge a higher profile in the discourse about important free expression and media freedom.I think partly because of a resource question, and partly because of the demands of so much else. Often these institutions have small staffing, or they’re often staffed by volunteers, as NGOs.
According to UNESCO’s website, World Press Freedom Day is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.
In order to highlight this issue strong media institutions are needed, Pearson contends, but they do often not receive enough support:
It’s been hard for them to get that message across, but I think they need to stand up, step forward, now, that we’re seeing large media organisations less able to finance that lobbying power for free expression, and really step up and fill that gap. So, I think really there’s a lot more that can be done for the community literacy about both the media itself and about the various rights and freedoms that both the ordinary citizens and the journalist should have.
One of the reasons why people in New Zealand and Australia do not seem to care very much about World Press Freedom Day might be because other issues interest them more:
“[M]edia freedom […] is something you don’t necessarily appreciate until you start to lose it. And it’s not something that is at the forefront of most citizens’ minds. They are much more concerned with things affecting their daily lives, their income, government decisions to do with health and education and these sorts of things”, Professor Pearson says.
After one year outside the top 10 countries on the Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) press freedom index, New Zealand re-entered at this year’s list on an 8th place.
New Zealand is one of only 21 countries in the world where Reporters sans frontières categorises the press freedom as “good”.
Differences between NZ, Australia
In Australia, the conditions for press freedom are not as good with instances of journalists being asked to reveal confidential sources by courts.
Australia is ranked 26th on the 2013 world press freedom index, up four places from 2012. Reporters Sans Frontières characterises the press situation in Australia as “satisfactory”.
Listen to and read the full interview with Professor Pearson, who is the Australian correspondent for the Paris-based global media freedom advocacy organisation Reporters Sans Frontières.
Source: Pacific Media Watch 8276