Australia and New Zealand

The region of Australia and New Zealand includes Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, as well as the Australian territories of Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands and Norfolk Island.

Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern that the Australian government may be trying to exert greater control over media through an inquiry designed to examine codes and practices. The inquiry was called in September 2011 after the revelation that some publications in the United Kingdom resorted to hacking into the voice mail of celebrities and other newsworthy figures.

As a result of the inquiry, Reporters Without Borders ranked Australia 30th on its 2011-12 Press Freedom Index, behind such countries as Namibia, Surinam, Mali and Niger.

The Australian government has also been studying broadcast and internet media, and whether they require further regulation. The ruling Labor Party has proposed a mandatory filtering mechanism to block banned material hosted on overseas web sites.

According to Freedom House, press freedoms in Australia are not constitutionally guaranteed, except in the state of Victoria. A Freedom House report cited on a United Nations web site, however, praises other Australian Freedom of Information reforms, such as making FOI requests more affordable and weighting requests on the side of disclosure.

Although New Zealand boasts a solid record of press freedoms, a January 2012 column in the New Zealand Herald expressed concern when Prime Minister John Key initiated a police investigation after a reporter recorded what was meant to be a private conversation between Key and another politician. The police ultimately declined to prosecute the journalist and issued a warning instead.

That episode was cited as one of the reasons New Zealand’s press freedom ranking slipped to no. 13 in the 2011 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. New Zealand had been ranked no. 8 the previous year.

According to a Freedom House report, the New Zealand Parliament in 2010 tabled a draft bill that would weaken journalists’ ability to maintain confidentiality of sources.

"Journalists are able to cover the news freely, and physical attacks or threats against the media are rare. There were no reports of harassment or assault against journalists during the year,” the report said.

In Papua New Guinea, freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and there is not government censorship, according to Freedom House. However, there have been concerns about government pressure and intimidation against journalists, particularly after a broadcaster was dismissed following negative coverage of the prime minister.