Press Freedom Media dinner

Went to the Press Freedom Media dinner held by the MEAA and Walkley Foundation to mark World Press Freedom Day. We were reminded of the deaths of 32 journalists in the Philippines on November 23 last year (it was pre-meditated – an excavator was nearby to bury the bodies and cars) and how journalists risk death or jail, even in Australia, while working for the greater good.

An auction was held to raise money for the 46 children of those 32 murdered journos – and there are more than 40 other children of murdered journos from around the world to support too.

There was a speech about how the deaths of journos don’t rate much of a mention or attention from governments and politicians, who are bent on protecting their own powerbases and restricting freedom of information. Also, in Australia, Royal Commissions have too much power to demand that journalists give up all sources of documents and contacts – under the threat of heavy fines and jail – and also, journalists are not allowed to reveal that they’ve even been questioned by a Royal Commission.

[The public is often unsympathetic to journos, as though we’re all guttersniping ratbags hanging outside celebrities’ homes all day, but the thing is, journos would rather be reporting on issues that are more important, it’s the public who wants to read trash. For example, coverage of what’s happening in the Pacific is direly needed for Australian readers, who prefer to read about glamorous Europe and the US. If China takes over the Pacific, we’re in dire trouble. Our attention should be there, and our government spends squillions there. It’s our taxpayers’ dollars.]

The key speaker missed his connecting flight, so another passionate bloke from The Guardian (UK) stepped in and told us how countries with fewer newspaper readers are riddled with more corruption.

He kept hitting home about how excellent journalism and freedom of information about government workings are essential for sustaining healthy democracies.

Comedian Wendy Harmer told a great anecdote about her first assignment with a male photographer to cover some wheat fields in the country, and The Chaser’s Julian Morrow conducted the auction (first prize was dinner for seven at Tetsuya’s with Peter FizSimons. Morrow teased: “If you say anything funny, it’ll end up in Fitzi’s Sun-Herald column the next day.”)

Had lovely chats with the ladies at my table, freelancers Dr Susan Merrell and Emma Jones and the MEAA lead organiser, Jessica Dolan.

I’m not an expert foodie, but the catering was amazing, particularly the presentation and taste.

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