Tracey Benson on Tue, 9 Jul 2002 13:57:49 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> media watch - woomera or north korea

      This was the main story on the Australian ABC show Media Watch
tonight, presented by David Marr.

      We saw the new centre at Port Augusta last week on the way to WA - at
the time we mistakenly thought it was the Port Augusta maximun security
prison. More razor wire than Woomera......

      Woomera or North Korea? :: 8/7/2002

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.


  '.may not interview any person who is detained under Australia's
immigration law.'
  DIMIA Restrictions

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.'
  DIMIA Restrictions

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.'
  DIMIA Restrictions

When its time to leave North Korea:

  'Journalists will show their tapes to the guide at the end of the trip.'
  North Korean conditions for journalists

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.'
  DIMIA Restrictions

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.'
  DIMIA Restrictions

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
  Have a look 

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

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