Media Giants Join Forces in "Right to Know" Campaign, Freedom of Information Monstered by High Court

May 10th, 2007 by Frank Moretti

Most people are aware that the Freedom of Information laws have been shredded by the High Court, no doubt by judges courting favour with both Federal and State governments.

A government employee has only this week reported that a Freedom of Information request for their employee file was returned with a letter demanding that they identify and specify the exact documents they wanted or the F.O.I. request would be denied. This is something new and sinister. Before this, government employees would state in their F.O.I. request simply that they required their employee file, or their file from a specified date to the present. The Government Medical Office (HealthQuest) has also reportedly hinted that unless documents are specified they will be denied from now on.

How is anyone to identify 'smoking gun' memos or evidence of corruption if they don't know it's there? The whole point of F.O.I. was originally to be able to find out what the corrupt bastards were up to.

Now the country's major newspapers, television and radio networks have joined forces to fight back against attacks on free speech in Australia. This is a momentous thing to have happened: the various news networks have often been enemies.

Some of those taking part in this campaign are News Limited, Fairfax, the ABC, Commercial Radio Australia, SBS, AAP and Sky News.

They have identified an audit of state and federal legislation as a first priority.

At the launch of the campaign John Hartigan said "New Zealanders can be trusted with information but apparently we can't." Mark Scott said "We are concerned at the trend we are seeing as the media faces more restrictions."

Last year News Limited decided not to go ahead with an FOI request about violent incidents in immigration detention centres after it was quoted a fee of $158,672.03 for the documents. This is a ruse often used to deter seekers of information.

The Federal government sees the 22-year-old Freedom of Information Act as a problem to be managed. Labor's homeland security spokesperson Robert McClelland says "The extent to which the Howard Government is misusing the processes of Freedom of Information is becoming a very concerning trend towards secrecy."

Fairfax CEO said he was relieved that the group had been formed. "We have all been fighting the restrictions separately," he said, "but this is a strong, united coalition."

There is a growing erosion of freedom in Australia. There has been a slide into censorship and secrecy, with 500 prohibitions currently restricting freedom of speech.

Notable among these prohibitions is Section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act.

This was allegedly enacted to prevent terrorists and paedophiles from accessing the internet for illegal purposes. Instead, government departments are using 474.17 to force websites to remove articles that expose corruption and lies within government departments and also HealthQuest. Sydney Indymedia has had a letter from government solicitors demanding the removal of an article under 474.17. I urge Indy in the light of this courageous act by the mainstream media in resisting the erosion of freedom of speech to ignore any such demands in the future. Even the privacy act is being used to threaten people who seek to publish the truth about government malfeasance.

Stand fast against the enemy, Sydney Indymedia, and thank you for the opportunity to publish the truth.

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