Australia Newspapers Redact Front Pages in Media-Freedom Protest

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(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s fiercely competitive newspaper industry shelved rivalries on Monday to present a united front against what it says is a government campaign to restrict freedom of the press.

Major newspapers including The Australian, owned by Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp., the Daily Telegraph and Nine Entertainment’s Sydney Morning Herald published front pages with most of the text blacked out, highlighting what they say is a growing culture of secrecy.

Media freedoms have increasingly been in the spotlight Down Under. This year federal police raided a home of a News Corp. journalist, along with an Australian Broadcasting Corp. newsroom in Sydney, after they published articles based on leaked information linked to a whisteblower.

The Right to Know coalition, which is acting as an umbrella group for the media organizations and other concerned groups, claims that more than 60 acts of legislation passed in the past two decades have eroded to ability for Australian journalists to report on issues and have increasingly allowed whistleblowers to be punished.

Asked by reporters during a visit to Jakarta on Sunday on whether his conservative government could respond to calls for more media-freedom protections, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government “will always believe in freedom of the press.”

“It’s an important part of our freedoms as a liberal democracy,” he said. “Also I believe in the rule of law and that no one is above it, including me or anyone else, any journalist or anyone else.”

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