Freedom of information and can the media be trusted?

25 September 2007, SBS Television, "Insight"

Strictly Confidential

In Australia it is often claimed that it is harder to get information from government departments than in most other western countries- whether personal records or documents of public interest. News Ltd Chairman,  John Hartigan, is leading the charge and demanding reforms to FOI and whistleblower laws as well as laws to protect journalist sources. Hartigan tells Insight that recent criminal convictions of journalists and whistleblowers are proof that the pendulum has swung too far. Insight also examines the cases of a number of citizens whose efforts to obtain documents and personal records have been thwarted by state and federal governments.

Insight looks at the other side of the coin as well, when the media invades privacy and potentially destroys lives. Does the media deserve more freedoms? Can they be trusted with even more power?

The ADA believes that releases of information need to be considered on a case-by-case basis but that journalists are not equipped to make decisions on what should be published or not when national security matters are involved. This is because they generally lack a conceptual and practical understanding of the matters and risks involved, and they have conflicts of interest with their commercial desires for sales, circulation and ratings, and with their individual desires for publicity and promotion.