Eddie Obeid, subject of some of Kate McClymont’s best-known investigations, leaves the ICAC after one of his appearances. Photo: Rob HomerFairfax Media senior reporter Kate McClymont and The Australian’s national security editor Paul Maley have each been awarded a prestigious Press Freedom Medal by the Australian Press Council.
The medal winners are “exemplary journalists, who have the respect of their peers and the admiration of all Australians for their uncompromising investigative journalism, painstakingly uncovering and revealing uncomfortable truths, often at considerable risk to themselves and their families”, Press Council chairman David Weisbrot said.
McClymont, of The Sydney Morning Herald, has won multiple journalism awards, including five Walkleys, for her courageous journalism holding governments to account and helping preserve free speech and press freedom.
Some of her best-known investigations include matters before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, the commercial activities of former NSW government ministers including Eddie Obeid, the administration of the Health Services Union and the Canterbury Bulldogs salary cap rorts. She said she was “touched and honoured” to receive the award.
“I hope I can inspire the next generation of journalists to have the courage not to look the other way. For democracy to flourish, it is vital that our journalists continue to hold those in power to account,” she said.
McClymont admits to having been “shaken, yes; but shut down, no” by attempts to intimidate her, which include death threats and phone taps. She has been sued for defamation and required police security.
“No journalist wants to put themselves or their family at risk,” she said, but journalists “often have to make the difficult decision that puts the interests of the public’s right to know before their own personal safety”.
Maley, national security editor of The Australian since 2010, was recognised particularly for his coverage of Islamic State, including his revelation of the photo of the young son of now-deceased Australian jihadi Khaleed Sharrouf brandishing the severed head of a Syrian official.
“The Islamic State, like all tyrannies, relies on violence, intimidation and fear to govern. Journalists cannot defeat it, but we can rob it of the false prestige it uses to destroy young lives,” Maley said.
“We must continue to do this, despite whatever threats are thrown our way.”
He has received death threats from Islamic State.
“The purpose of the Australian Press Council is to promote responsible journalism to inform the Australian public and support effective democratic institutions,” Professor Weisbrot said.
“We do this by setting high standards of practice for journalism, handling complaints from the public and advocating for free speech, press freedom and open government.
“It is entirely fitting that we honour two people who have made such important contributions, and exemplify everything that good journalism is about.”
The council has awarded three Press Council Medals in previous years, but the honour was reserved for people affiliated with the council.
The council decided this year to open up the award to people who, “through their work as journalists, legal practitioners, community activists or advocates of press freedom, help ensure the preservation of free speech, press freedom and open and transparent government”.
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