Australia: Press freedom inquiry must have wide terms of reference - PressFrom - Australia

AustraliaPress freedom inquiry must have wide terms of reference

23:36  11 july  2019
23:36  11 july  2019 Source:

Cabinet agrees to press freedom inquiry

Cabinet agrees to press freedom inquiry Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese are expected to meet in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss an inquiry into press freedom. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to meet with Labor leader Anthony Albanese to discuss an inquiry into press freedoms, following the federal police raid on a journalist's home and the ABC's headquarters. The pair will meet on Wednesday in Canberra after Mr Morrison's cabinet agreed to an inquiry into how police and intelligence powers have impacted the media, The Australian reports. require(["inlineoutstreamAd", "c.

Press freedom inquiry must have wide terms of reference© ninevms The Australian Federal Police has defended raids on a journalist’s home and the ABC headquarters in Sydney.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

When Australian high commissioner George Brandis rose to address a select audience at the Latvian embassy in London early this week about the challenges to liberal democracy, including threats to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, he almost certainly didn't have himself in mind as an example.

Yet, as the Herald this week has revealed, laws on access to telecommunications metadata that Mr Brandis pioneered during his stint as federal attorney-general have been used by the Australian Federal Police to track the activities of journalists.

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Human rights commissioner Ed Santow has warned that laws passed on Mr Brandis' watch about the use of metadata are being overused in a way that can make it hard for journalists to work with confidential sources. The AFP disclosed that it accessed journalists' metadata, such as information about sites they visited, 58 times last year.

The AFP used these laws and also other longer-standing powers to demand records of ABC journalist Dan Oakes' travel from Qantas and to conduct raids of the ABC's Ultimo offices and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.

The raids, which Mr Santow said would be unthinkable in Britain or the US, have attracted international attention of a sort Australia can do without. Britain's new Press Freedom Commissioner, Amal Clooney, said this week that at a time when dictators are mocking the very idea of a free press these actions in a country like Australia sent a bad signal for countries with weaker democratic traditions.

Albanese 'making Shorten look good': Dutton

Albanese 'making Shorten look good': Dutton Anthony Albanese has been outfoxed by union boss John Setka, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has said in a fiery exchange on Today. The Opposition Leader has moved to boot the CFMEU secretary out of the Labor Party. But facing an injunction from the Supreme Court, Mr Setka's expulsion from the party has been put on hold. Mr Albanese told Today’s Tom Steinfort he had not "shelved anything". "There will be a national executive meeting. It will expel John Setka," he said. "When something is before the courts just like when people take Peter Dutton to the courts, you have to respect the legal processes.

There is no question that the intelligence-gathering powers given to the AFP have helped it apprehend terrorists and keep Australians safe. The Sydney man Isaak el Matari charged last week with planning a terrorist attack and being a member of Islamic State was alleged to have used a range of social media platforms, some open, others encrypted, to communicate about his plans. There is also no question that some information is crucial to national security.

Yet it is worrying if these powers are used much more widely. For example, the whistleblower David McBride, who is alleged to have provided documents to the ABC about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, was in court on Thursday and questioned why the documents about events 10 years ago on a matter of considerable public interest should still be classified as top secret.

As Nick McKenzie, an award-winning member of our investigative team, pointed out in our recent Please Explain podcast on press freedom, journalism is often about finding out what powerful people do not want us to know and obtaining such confidences can lead both the reporter and their source into a "grey legal area".

ABC writes to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton asking for action against journalists to stop

ABC writes to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton asking for action against journalists to stop In an email to staff, ABC Managing Director David Anderson has said he is disappointed the fate of journalists remains unclear.

Yet the laws the AFP seeks to enforce were created by the legislation of successive governments, in a liberal democracy that – uniquely – does not formally protect press freedom through an explicit charter. Instead, as McKenzie also pointed out, journalists have relied on "inbuilt discretion in our system" to protect them as they go about their work.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed an inquiry by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security into the balance between press freedom and the intelligence and police agencies' investigative powers, including their use of metadata and search warrants. The Labor Party has said it would like an inquiry that includes whether whistleblowers receive enough protection.

An inquiry is certainly needed but it should be given the widest terms of reference possible to allow it to identify where the threats to press freedom lie and recommend remedies that go beyond tinkering.

Hanson wary of new religious freedom laws.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s push for new religious freedom laws is in danger of hitting a major parliamentary hurdle. Mr Morrison intends to make it unlawful to discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs. He is proposing to amend existing marriage, charities and anti-discrimination legislation to achieve this end. require(["inlineoutstreamAd", "c.

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