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|ben moretti on Tue, 9 Jul 2002 01:17:01 +0200 (CEST)|
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|[Nettime-bold] (Fwd) Objections to Australian media clampdown at Woomera|
In the grand tradition of Howardean lies, videotapes and intolerance, here comes another account of this tricky regime which in the name of "protecting the privacy of asylum seekers", is doing it's best to keep the Australian people uninformed about the plights of those de-humanised asylum seekers, by imposing restrictions on mass media’s coverage of the detention centres.
Woomera or North Korea?
Source: Media Watch , ABC TV (8 July 2002)
And while we're worried about privacy, the Howard government is particularly keen to protect the privacy of asylum seekers by placing extraordinary restrictions on media access.
If you wonder why you know nothing about the people there, have rarely seen their faces unless they're mutilating themselves on the wire and don't know their stories, then this is the reason.
Journalists: ‘…may not interview any person who is detained under Australia’s immigration law.’
And photographers and camera crews:
‘…will not photograph/film … people in detention …in a way that may be identifiable; noting that pixelling/blurring of faces is not sufficient.’
The Department of Immigration reckons it can insist on this restriction:
‘…in or outside the Immigration Processing and Reception Centre.’ DIMIA Restrictions
The dwindling ranks of journalists with working experience behind the Iron Curtain are familiar with these sort of restrictions. A few of them still apply in North Korea:
‘Journalists will be accompanied by a government guide at all times. They may not leave the hotel unaccompanied.’ North Korean conditions for journalists
Here's the local equivalent:
‘An Immigration Officer will accompany participants at all times; participants (and their photographer/camera crew…) must stay with the accompanying officer at all times.’
When its time to leave North Korea:
‘Journalists will show their tapes to the guide at the end of the trip.’
And when its time to leave Woomera:
‘Representatives of the Department will view the photographs/film for use with the resulting report/s, to ascertain that staff or people detained are not identifiable.’
The Australian media is at last starting to object to this. Channels 7, 9, and 10, the ABC and the Adelaide Advertiser all told Media Watch they were refusing to join a planned press visit to Woomera the other day because of these restrictions.
Grant Heading of Channel 10 told us:
‘We made the decision not to go… there were to be no shots of any detainees and any vision that was shot was to be vetted before it was released. It was totally unacceptable that they wanted to vet vision…’ Heading to Media Watch
If you believe the Department of Immigration, it's a positive benefit to people behind the wire that they remain faceless.
‘The purpose of these requirements is not to restrict your ability to report on the centre, but to ensure that detainees are not identifiable in any way in order to protect their individual privacy and safety and, potentially, the safety of their families overseas.’
The problem with this is that the detainees have no choice in the matter. It's compulsory privacy, so it's no use them sending out pleas like this:
'We request the media to come inside and see the whole truth about persecution of people in the Australian Woomera refugee detention centre. We, the undersigned request the media to be allowed into the camp to interview us on TV, radio and for newspapers so that we can tell our stories to the public.’
The Woomera Petitions http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/stories/popups/080702_s4f1.htm
No go I'm afraid. Not because the government wants secrecy no, no but because they're protecting people's privacy.
This Wednesday the press are invited to inspect the newest camp at Port Augusta with no restrictions at all because:
‘…there will be no detainees in the centre at the time…’
Editors alert for 10 July tour
Yes, the Australian press will be absolutely free to report anything they like about the empty buildings, the empty yards and the empty rooms. Can't wait.