The work of journalists is being hampered by defamation laws, suppression orders and national security laws, a survey by Australia's media union suggests.
Released on Friday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, the second annual survey by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has found the majority of Australian journalists believe freedom of the press has declined in the past decade.
Some 1532 people took part in the survey with one quarter identifying as journalists or media professionals.
Close to 85 per cent of the journalists said press freedom had become worse over the past 10 years while 63 per cent said the overall health of press freedom in Australia was poor or very poor.
Eighty per cent of journalists said Australia's defamation laws make reporting more difficult, up from 72 per cent in 2018, while 10 per cent said they had been sent a defamation order in the past two years, up from six per cent in 2018.
Twenty-eight per cent of journalists said they had a news story spiked in the past 12 months over fears of a defamation action by the person mentioned in the story, up from 24 per cent in 2018.
MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said urgent reform was needed to make the country's defamation laws and suppression order regimes fit for the 21st century.
"Australia's defamation laws are among the most onerous in the western world and journalists in Australia are bound by restrictions which are inexplicable to those in other countries, where free speech protections are designed to enforce the public's right to know," Mr Murphy said in a statement.
The union survey also found 19 per cent of journalists believed their work had been affected by national security laws in the past 12 months.
Australian Associated Press