Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Australia 8 September 2006

Call for overhaul of freedom of information laws after disappointing decision by High Court

Reporters Without Borders today called on Australia’s government and parliament to urgently amend its laws on the right and access to information in order to better protect press freedom after a high court ruling confirmed the extent to which these rights and freedoms are curtailed.

"It is regrettable in a democracy that a government can so easily reject a journalist’s request for access to information that is in the public interest," the press freedom organisation said. "It is even more regrettable that the courts uphold the government’s ability to evade the need for transparency."

Reporters Without Borders added that it was supporting calls from the Australian Press Council and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for an overhaul of the existing legislation.

In a three-to-two majority decision, the high court of Australia ruled on 6 September that the treasury department was right not to supply The Australian daily newspaper with the information about income tax which the newspaper’s freedom of information editor, Michael McKinnon, requested a few years ago under the 2002 Freedom of Information Act.

The authorities are empowered under the access to information laws to reject a request from a news organisation if they considered it is against "the public interest." The treasury minister twice blocked McKinnon’s request for documents relating to tax policy.

The Australian Press Council said the high court’s decision would give the authorities a "fresh impetus to suppress information that is embarrassing or politically inconvenient." The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the existing legislation "provided several barriers for journalists seeking access to non-personal information."

In this country
26 September - Australia
Federal police violate confidentiality of reporter’s sources by raiding his home
7 May - Australia
Police raid on Perth newspaper highlights need to protect confidentiality of sources
23 November - Australia
What the next prime minister must do to improve press freedom
16 November - Australia - Indonesia - Timor
Coroner says death of "Balibo five" was premeditated war crime by Indonesian army
6 June - Australia - Indonesia - East Timor
Australian authorities had no reason to apologise to Jakarta governor Sutiyoso

in the annual report
Australia - Annual report 2008
Australia- Annual report 2007
Australia - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised