Media freedom a priority

Journalism freedom fighter Professor Peter Greste is spearheading a unique research collaboration to protect media independence, the role of the media in democracy, and the safety of journalists.

The University of Queensland and the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (AJF) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on research projects about many aspects of media freedom.

Professor Greste, who is also an AJF Director, said press freedom was fundamental to any functioning democracy.

“It is the first line of defence for voters, the way we have robust and open public debates, and hold the powerful to account,” he said.

“But the very idea of press freedom around the world is being eroded by both technological and political developments.

“The work the AJF and UQ are doing means we will be able to speak with real authority, to protect that key institution.”

UQ Provost Professor Aidan Byrne said he was delighted UQ was partnering with the newly established alliance.

“Digital technologies, and an evolving political and legal environment are radically changing the way the media works in a modern society,” he said.

“It is vitally important that we understand the changes taking place and their impact on the way democracy works.

“Our partnership with the AJF gives us the scope and resources to study that crucial relationship.”

Professor Byrne said that UQ was committed to the study and practice of journalism in a changing world as highlighted by the appointment of Peter Greste to UQ at the beginning of 2018.

“As the UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication , Peter’s role at UQ encompasses teaching, research, as well as advocating for the need to defend journalists and freedom of expression,” Professor Byrne said.

AJF Chair Peter Wilkinson said media freedom was particularly important in current times.

“We are living through a highly challenging communication era, being bombarded with fake news and opinions on a confusion of channels,” he said.

“We need more trusted journalists reporting and investigating with freedom and safety.”

Recently, Reporters Sans Frontiers’ Press Freedom Index ranked Australia at 19th in the world.

The Index also found a more visible climate of hatred towards journalists globally with the Asia Pacific region following that trend, and at times leading it, with attacks on the press in places like China, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

UQ and the AJF will collaborate on research, ‘round-tables’ and other events that will enhance public debate on the importance of journalists’ freedom to practice their craft in Australia and the Asia Pacific.