Australia: Closure of regional newspapers amid coronavirus pandemic

Regional newspapers in Australia have begun closing their doors and laying off staff following the Australian Government’s economic stimulus response to the coronavirus. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) condemn the regional newspaper closures, emphasising the importance of access to information during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunraysia Daily building in Mildura, Victoria. Credit: Sunraysia Daily

Over the last week MEAA, has responded to reports stating regional newspapers are shutting down their titles and standing down their staff. According to MEAA, while “the stimulus money available to these businesses include lines of credit, relaxed insolvency regulations and business cash flow measures,” there will be profound long-term effects if papers continue to close down.

Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC reported one of the closed newspapers is the Sunraysia Daily, the only daily paper in Mildura, a town in the state of Victoria.  The ABC confirmed staff were stood down at Elliot Newspaper Group who have multiple newspapers across rural Victoria. Ross Lanyon, the managing director of the Elliot Newspaper Group, told the ABC, advertising which accounted for 70 per cent of the newspaper’s income has disappeared. Other rural newspapers have stated their closure and lay-offs are a result of a similar decline in revenue.  

Recently, Australia’s major newswire service Australian Associated Press announced they will close their doors, foreshadowing an “impending crisis” for public interest journalism.

MEAA said: “We understand the financial pressures publishers are experiencing and offer our help to negotiate ways of easing this burden, but closing the doors at this time would be a betrayal of their workforce and a betrayal of their communities”

Furthermore, if the papers can’t survive, the government must step in and financially support them as an essential service until this crisis has passed,” MEAA added.

The IFJ said: “Now more than ever, it is essential for the unimpeded free flow of information to assist rural communities in responding to the crisis as well as maintaining links between the community. The IFJ condemns the closure of the regional newspapers and urges the Australian Government to intervene.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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