Australia

Press freedom a democracy 'bedrock', Communications Minister says

0:00

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has sat down with SBS News's Anton Enus to discuss the media's role in democracy, as news organisations unite for press freedom.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has reiterated his government's support for press freedom, describing it as a "bedrock principle in democracy".

It comes a day after media organisations pushed for new laws to protect journalists and whistleblowers. The Minister was quick to add "there have always been other factors that need to be weighed up in the mix".

"Media organisations have never been free to publish without restraint when it comes to the law of defamation, to protect people against having their reputation unfairly destroyed," he told SBS News's Anton Enus.  

"And there have always been laws regarding national security so we appropriately protect matters that are vital to national security".

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher described press freedom as "a bedrock principle in democracy" after news outlets united for stronger protection laws.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher described press freedom as "a bedrock principle in democracy" after news outlets united for stronger protection laws.
SBS News

Earlier this month the Australian Federal Police conducted raids on a New Corp journalist's home and the ABC's Sydney office, which received condemnation from world media.

Minister Fletcher, who was appointed to the role after the federal election, said his government was open to improving existing laws on media freedom if there was "evidence or analysis that shows that there is an opportunity".

 

"We've now seen from organisations, specific measures and that'll now be an opportunity for the government to sit down with media organisations and better understand their thinking," he said.

"That will be an important process."

0:00
Media bosses unite in fight to protect press freedom
Media bosses unite in fight to protect press freedom

The Minister said public broadcasting had a crucial place in Australia's media landscape and future.

"SBS and the ABC have an important role in the media ecosystem, and are arguably getting more important," he said. 

"One of the things that's special about SBS is that it's reflective of the diversity in Australia - we are one of the world's most successful multicultural, multi-ethnic, multiracial, multi-religious societies." 

Minister Fletcher noted in his own electorate of Bradfield in NSW, 19 per cent of residents in the last census reported coming from a Chinese background, 4 per cent Korean and 3 per cent Indian.

He described it as one "typical" example of modern Australia.  

"As our diversity as a nation has increased, the role of SBS remains extremely relevant," he said. 

Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove with Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher swearing in at Government House.
Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove with Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher swearing in at Government House.
AAP

“One of the interesting things of SBS I think is that it’s always had part of its operational model to serve substantial numbers of specific audiences with radio programs [for example] in Mandarin or Arabic or in Thai.”

SBS Radio broadcasts Australian news and informative features in 68 different languages across the channels - Radio 1, Radio 2 and Online.

“The way that technology, video-streaming, and the internet has evolved has meant that today it’s much more about serving a larger number of smaller audiences," Minister Fletcher said. 

“People sometimes ask the question: ‘People over satellite can get broadcast services from every country in the world, in every language so where is SBS’s differentiation?’

“Clearly, an important part of its differentiation is content produced in Australia, in the languages of the world... that's easier for people [who speak languages other than English] to access their news." 

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch