I wrote this blurb some time ago, but the recent finding of THE HERALD SUN columnist Andrew Bolt in breach of The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 has brought the question of media back into focus:
In The Fourth Estate In The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law: Dealing with legal and ethical issues (2nd edn.), Mark Pearson rightly notes that “central to the function of our system of government is the doctrine of the separation of powers incorporated in the Constitution”, and that “part of the social function of the media — as the Fourth Estate –is to ensure via thorough reportage that any breach of the separation of powers is brought to the attention of the public”. Further, Pearson writes, “journalists in Australia are endowed with a freedom to publish which is much greater than that allowed by many other societies. Abuse of that freedom jeopardises it for others who want to take advantage of it for the greater public good.”
With this in mind, two particular areas of “political journalism” come straight to mind:
1. The commentary of Alan Jones on 2GB radio of the Gillard government
2. The prosletising and blatant editorial bias of The Daily Telegraph
As part of my right to freedom of speech, I would contest that both parties in the above examples are portraying inherent bias, and in that sense, abusing their journalistic power. I know not how long it has been since I have heard Alan Jones say something positive about federal, or any state, Labor party.
What is fair and ethical journalism? Who decides this? And, does it matter?
For anyone interested, The Federal Court has a released statement outlining its findings.