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Volume 12, Issue 2

Eco-journalism and security
September, 2006

Photo: © Ben Bohane

PJR 12(2) September 2006

September, 2006

ISSN: 1023-9499

In this issue…

Anti-terror laws threaten media freedom

Australia’s tough anti-terror laws have impacted strongly on the media and contrasted with more relaxed policies in New Zealand and the Pacific, says a report in the latest Pacific Journalism Review. A survey of the status of anti-terrorism legislation and the media in the region has revealed marked differences in the impact on news organisations in Australia, NZ and the Pacific.

“Australia has clearly taken a strong anti-terrorism position, reflecting its partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom in the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ invasion of Iraq,” write Bond University media law Professor Mark Pearson and researcher Naomi Busst.

The authors also cite the terrorist bombings in the tourist hub of Bali in 2002 and 2005 as major factors in the tough Australian laws. Australia’s “spate of legislation since 2001 has made it a model jurisdiction for the tightening of the powers of enforcement and security agencies in the battle against terrorism, but in the process it has drawn strong criticism from civil rights groups and media organisations for compromising the basic freedoms of its citizens and the press”.

According to the authors, “journalists have faced real and potential impositions, including restrictions on their reportage of some terrorism operations, new surveillance and interception powers jeopardising the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, and a reinvigoration of ancient sedition laws”.

The New Zealand approach, say the authors, appears to be more moderate. However, legislation since 2001 has increased the potential of NZ law enforcement agencies to compromise journalists’ sources via tracking devices and computer access. Pearson and Busst add that the 2006 jailing of a pamphleteer under the ancient law of sedition indicates “the New Zealand legislators may feel pre-9/11 laws suit their post-9/11 needs”.

Pacific countries have failed to implement the bare minimum anti-terrorism initiatives expected by the United Nations conventions to which they are signatories. The anti-terrorism laws article is among a series of research papers about “eco-journalism and security” published in a special edition of PJR, including an article exposing the “privatisation” of Fijian military personnel seeking contracts in Iraq.

Editor Dr David Robie, of AUT University, says the edition highlights how the democratic foundation stone of press freedom in the region is being eroded.

Ben Bohane's photo gallery

Editorial

1. Lies, gags and the future
David Robie