PRESS FREEDOM: MP Shayne Neumann throws his support behind the Right to Know initiative.
PRESS FREEDOM: MP Shayne Neumann throws his support behind the Right to Know initiative. Paige Ashby

Blair MP backs press freedom campaign

FEDERAL MP Shayne Neumann has thrown his support behind the QT and other mastheads across the country in their bid to fight for press freedom.

After 12 years in parliament, Mr Neumann said he'd never seen a prime minister who is 'so addicted to avoiding answering basic questions, as this one.'

"You only have to see his response to journalists and if he doesn't like a question, he calls it the Canberra bubble or gossip, and just blatantly refuses to answer the question and just walks away from press conferences,” he said.

"They need to bring in legislation that provides whistle-blower protections, freedom of the press enshrining the rights, so that journalists are not raided.

"That there be restrictions and notifications in relation to warrants, and a whole range of other freedoms that are necessary, which the Right to Know Coalition has been pushing very hard, which will enhance and protect our freedoms.

"It's up to the government. They can't just say they were elected on May 18 and do nothing. They're in office, they've got to be in power also and they need to draft a legislation and get it through parliament.”

Mr Neumann likened restricting the freedom of the press as a move that lends itself towards a "communist or fascist dictatorship”.

"The first thing you do is you repress your political opponents. The second thing you do is you suppress the trade union movement. The third thing, is you restrict the freedom of the press and the right to know,” he said.

"In a democratic society you need scrutiny, transparency and accountability, so the press plays an enormous role and the QT does that at a local level, so it's absolutely crucial.”

Mr Neumann said it's not just journalists struggling to get answers, it's also happening within the four walls of the senate.

Observing senate estimates over the past week, Mr Neumann said: "I've never seen a government take so many questions on notice before.”

"I think governments deserve scrutiny, I mean all politicians at every level. If you're involved for example in playing in the NRL, don't complain if you get tackled. If you're involved in politics, don't complain if you get criticised,” he said.

It comes as media outlets across the country call upon the Federal Government to make changes to address serious shortcomings in the law, which prevents journalists from doing their jobs.

Demanded changes include a review of Freedom of Information laws, a reform of defamation laws and a new regime that limits which documents can be marked secret.