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Most of us have grown up in a society where freedom of speech and a free Press are considered sacrosanct. We have come to take for granted the right of anyone to speak their piece, providing it does not libel someone or cause a riot. We are deeply disturbed when we hear of governments in other parts of the world taking control of the media, expelling foreign journalists, or jailing political critics for so-called crimes against the State. But what many of us do not realise is that strict controls operate in countries like Australia as well. Because these controls are exercised secretly, and because they come from nameless, faceless individuals and bodies, there is no system of accountability... no need to justify whatever action may be taken.

The history of the Christian Church has included many heresy trials, which often resulted in the excommunication of religious dissidents. Such trials are now considered to be politically incorrect. However, excommunication of a more passive sort continues, through strict control of what reaches the public via the secular and religious media. Although heresy trials were often unfair, they at least were trials, with the charges being made public, and some effort being made to consider arguments from both sides. What happens as the result of whispered instructions to journalists, columnists and reporters (and occasionally to other authorities) in today's society is not subject to review or criticism.

John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff for the New York Times, and one of the best loved newspaper men in the United States, made one of the most important and informative statements in that nation's history. He was so respected that his colleagues called him 'the Dean of his profession'. Called on to give a toast before the New York Press Club, he is quoted as saying this about free press in America: "There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinion, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the street looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinion to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours, my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country Š for his daily bread; you know it, and I know folly in this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks. They pull the strings ­ we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are the property of others... we are intellectual prostitutes. ("Taking Aim" Volume 2, Issue No. 2, April 1995, page 2.)

This book is a case history of excommunication within Australia. It is a record of how an Anwar Ibrahim could be silenced if he lived in Australia instead of Malaysia. If the powers that be were sufficiently motivated, such a silencing could be carried out here without any fear that foreign reporters would come to Anwar's aid. He would not need to be jailed, and no charges would need to be laid against him. Instead, he could be surreptitiously "excommunicated" from the mass media. And once the decision was made, the general public would never know the difference.

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