‘Right to know’ smothered by silence

By Barry Tucker                    23 October, 2013

The new Australian federal Liberal-National party’s hardline asylum seeker policy has been dealt with by the news media, briefly, and then forgotten.

The government’s approach has been to virtually declare war on people smugglers and to declare the asylum seekers as “illegals”. It has directed Public Service staff to refer to them as “detainees”.

Handling boat arrivals is administered by a newly-promoted three-star general and the government’s policy goes under the title of Operation Sovereign Borders. The war footing flavour of the policy allows the government to hide behind a veil of secrecy, designed, it says, to avoid giving information to the enemy (the people smugglers).

The danger is that the news media becomes complacent or lazy and fails in its role of informing the public and keeping the government under surveillance and even in check. In addition, there is a dehumanising effect on the asylum seekers.

These issues, problems and failings are dealt with in an article in The Conversation by Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism at University of Melbourne.