Freedom of speech

Self-censorship and the press

In the Sydney Morning Herald, the IPA’s James Paterson answers the question: should the media censor the trial of Anders Breivik?

The government certainly shouldn’t. If we value the principle of freedom of speech then it should not be illegal to air Breivik’s trial. But that principle says nothing about what private media companies should do.

The media – like everybody – has a moral duty to exercise restraint, particularly when it comes to relaying views as disgusting as Breivik’s. It is understandable that many people would not want to see Breivik granted a platform for his views. Ultimately, whether to cover Breivik’s trial is an editorial judgement to be made by individual news outlets.

Yet it is not clear what would be gained if the media did decide to collectively suppress the broadcast of his trial.

Read the whole thing here.


Finkelstein recommendations must be rejected completely


“The government and opposition must reject the outrageous attack on freedom of speech recommended by the Chair of the Independent Media Inquiry, Ray Finkelstein,” said Chris Berg, a Research Fellow with free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

Mr Berg appeared before the inquiry in November 2011 and is the author of a forthcoming book on freedom of speech.

“The proposals are an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech in Australia.

“The practical effect of Finkelstein’s proposals is to licence newspapers, magazines, and blogs. This is a massive intrusion on what we can read and write.

“His proposed ‘News Media Council’ would be empowered to censor – to force media outlets to remove material from the internet.

“Finkelstein recommends that the print media be regulated in the same way as broadcasting. But similar broadcasting regulations have been used as weapons to try to censor political speech,” said Mr Berg.

“It is shameful that the Media Inquiry has recommended such a massive expansion of regulation. Even ‘news’ websites that have as few as forty visitors a day would have their freedom of speech regulated.

“The government must reject Finkelstein’s proposals out of hand,” said Mr Berg.

The Institute of Public Affairs made a submission to the inquiry.


Coalition’s free speech reform welcome but needs to go further

The Coalition’s announcement that it would reform the Racial Discrimination Act is an important and necessary step towards restoring freedom of speech, but should go further, said Chris Berg, Research Fellow with free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

Mr Berg is the author of a forthcoming book on threats to freedom of speech.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” because of a person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin. Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis announced that an Abbott government would remove the words “offend” and “insult” from the Act.

“Freedom of speech is our most basic and fundamental right”, said Mr Berg.

“The Coalition’s proposal is welcome but restrictions on opinions which ‘humiliate’ or ‘intimidate’ would remain. Only a full repeal of Section 18C will ensure that a case like Andrew Bolt’s will never occur again in Australia,” said Mr Berg.

The Institute of Public Affairs this week launched the Repeal 18C campaign, which seeks the abolition of this restriction on freedom of speech entirely –

“The Andrew Bolt case shows that Australians’ freedom to express their sincerely held opinions has been severely limited by Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

“In a free and open society we will sometimes be offended, embarrassed, even humiliated by the opinions of others, but that should never be an excuse to use the law to shut them up,” said Mr Berg.

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ACMA should be shut down


“The Australian Communications and Media Authority is a threat to freedom of speech and should be shut down,” said Chris Berg, Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, a free market think tank.

“ACMA’s finding against Alan Jones today shows that the regulator is being used for political purposes to attack conservative views.”

The communications regulator found that Alan Jones breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice by not making “reasonable efforts” to “present significant viewpoints”.

The investigation was in response to a complaint that the broadcaster described bureaucrats from the NSW Department of Environment as “scumbags that run around preying on productive people”.

“This is an obviously political attack on freedom of speech. It is not up to the government to decide what viewpoints should be broadcast on political matters and in what quantity,” said Mr Berg.

“2GB is a private company and Alan Jones is a private individual. They should not be forced by the government to air views they disagree with.

“Freedom of speech also means freedom not to speak.”

The Federal Government’s Independent Media Inquiry is investigating the possibility of enforcing similar regulations on newspapers.

“This recent finding against Alan Jones underscores how threatening to freedom of speech forcing ‘balance’ can be.

“ACMA’s remaining powers managing the broadcast spectrum should be handed to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. The regulator should then be shut down,” said Mr Berg.


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