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Journalists' union withdraws controversial su -

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Journalists' union withdraws controversial submission

Broadcast: 20/03/2008

Reporter: John Stewart

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has withdrawn a submission to the Federal
Government recommending that reporters notify police when entering Aboriginal communities protected
by the permit system, after senior reporters in QLD and the NT spoke out against the proposal.

Transcript

TONY JONES: The journalists' union has tonight withdrawn a submission to the Federal Government
recommending that reporters notify police and councils when entering Aboriginal communities
protected by the permit system.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance backed down on its recommendations after senior
reporters in Queensland and the Northern Territory spoke out against the proposal.

John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART: Since the 1970s a system of permits has been used to restrict access to Aboriginal
communities in the Northern Territory. Last year the minister for Aboriginal affairs, Mal Brough,
removed the permit system during the Federal Government's intervention into Northern Territory
Aboriginal communities. Mal Brough believed the permits were protecting paedophiles and hiding a
culture of widespread child sexual abuse. Now the Rudd Labor Government has reimposed the permit
system, but exempted journalists. But under that relaxed new protocol for reporters, the
journalists' union, the MEAA, is suggested new controls.

MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT AND ARTS ALLIANCE: On arrival in a community media representatives will report
to the police and council at the first opportunity and inform them what they intend doing in the
community.

CHRISTOPHER WARREN, FEDERAL SECURITY, MEDIA, ENTERTAINMENT AND ARTS ALLIANCE: The way it was
drafted is that, you say I'm here, I'm a journalist, I'm doing a story. I'm here as a journalist.
That's the intention.

JOHN STEWART: Award-winning journalist Paul Toohey is outraged at the suggestion that reporters
would have to report to the police when they arrive at an Aboriginal community.

PAUL TOOHEY, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Suggesting that upon arrival in a community that we report to
police and in the MEAA's wording, outline our intentions to the police before getting to work, now
to me that is an unthinkable proposition. For a start we might be looking into the police.

JOHN STEWART: It's a sentiment shared by other senior reporters throughout the country including
four time Walkley Award winner, Tony Koch.

TONY KOCH, THE AUSTRALIAN: As for getting permission, this is not communist Russia, that's just a
nonsense suggestion.

JOHN STEWART: The permit system does have strong support from the Central Land Council as a way of
protecting Aboriginal communities from outsiders. The council argues the permits also protect the
privacy of Aboriginal people from media intrusion. But reporters like the Australian Newspaper's
Tony Koch, have little time for the restrictions.

TONY KOCH: These are just people, they are fellow Australians and you just be polite and decent
about it. And there's no need for permits at all, that's just an absolute nonsense.

PAUL TOOHEY: I will simply ignore it. I just wont adhere to it. And nor will anyone else. They're
going to back on this. They're going to have to back down.

JOHN STEWART: Tonight the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance did back down, announcing the
submission will be withdrawn pending further consultation with the union members.

John Stewart, Lateline.