Media law & ethics in Australia - Introduction

Journalism in free speech democracies - or countries striving to be - share some universal principles that are applicable across all similar social and political systems. These include the pursuit of truth, the valuing of objectivity, the principle of fairness and the practice of accuracy.

But despite increasing globalisation, every society is still distinct. Each has its own unique history, time-honoured cultures and national identity. The practice of journalism must adapt to these factors, just as seeds flourish differently in different soils.

Because much of my practical experience as a journalism educator has taken place in Australia, I have accumulated a store of information related specifically to that country. The News Manual Online is an opportunity to share this with you.

Australian journalists and media students may find it useful in their day-to-day work and studies. Those of you working or studying in other countries may want to use it as a comparison with the way journalism is practised in your country.

As with all material in The News Manual, it is your duty, as a responsible journalist, to decide what suits your circumstances and what does not.

If you are unsure, some quick research should clarify issues. An excellent legal resource for Australians is 'The Journalist's Guide to Media Law: Dealing with legal and ethical issues' by Professor Mark Pearson, the Third Edition published in 2007 by Allen & Unwin. It is not currently available as an online text, but information about the book is here.

You can, of course, go to the root of Australian media laws by examining the acts and regulations themselves, though these are usually complex and can even be misleading unless you know what you are doing. The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) has an extensive and easily searchable database. [There are similar databases on laws in other countries; you can find information on these through our Research Links page.]

But don't just go online or read books. Practise your journalism skills by asking practitioners for their expert advice. For example, on legal matters approach lawyers, court officials or legal academics for their advice. Most will be happy to help because they will see you as a means of educating the general public about what citizens can and cannot legally do.

Finally, for those of you working in Australia, some of the country-specific pages will be very similar to related chapters in The News Manual itself. Beware the subtle differences and if in doubt - ask!

David Ingram
August 2008

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Media law & ethics in Australia
  1. Media law & ethics in Australia - Introduction
  2. Defamation in Australia
  3. Contempt & court reporting in Australia
  4. Copyright in Australia
  5. Vilification in Australia
  6. National security and anti-terrorism in Australia
 
 

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