Australia: Peter FitzSimons calls for change in 'draconian' laws to protect press freedom in Andrew Olle lecture - - PressFrom - Australia

Australia Peter FitzSimons calls for change in 'draconian' laws to protect press freedom in Andrew Olle lecture

13:50  01 november  2019
13:50  01 november  2019 Source:

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Peter FitzSimons is "deeply honoured" to be asked to deliver the annual lecture . "He is a passionate advocate for press freedom and holding those in power accountable. I have no doubt his 2019 Andrew Olle Media Lecture will be insightful, passionate and personal – and one that will

Peter John FitzSimons AM (born 29 June 1961) is an Australian author, journalist, radio and television presenter. He is a former national representative rugby union player and has been the chair of the

Australian Republic Movement chair Peter Fitzsimons.© AAP Australian Republic Movement chair Peter Fitzsimons.

Author and columnist Peter FitzSimons has delivered a strong message that press freedom is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy and called for changes in the law to protect journalists.

He made the comments while delivering the keynote address at the annual Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Sydney on Friday night, where he emphasised the need to support robust journalism for the good of the "national fabric".

FitzSimons said the June raids by the Australian Federal Police on the ABC offices and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst were an affront to democracy.

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The Andrew Olle Media Lecture was established in 1996 by the presenters and staff at 702 ABC Sydney (formerly 2BL) to honour the memory of ABC Radio broadcaster Andrew Olle , who died in 1995 of a brain tumour. It focuses on the role and future of the media.

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"It was an outrage that effectively equated fearless investigative journalism with criminality," he said.

He cited Watergate as "the greatest journalistic triumph of our times" which never would have happened had the United States had similar laws to Down Under.

"How did we allow such ludicrously draconian legislation to be passed in sunny Australia?"

'Change the law'

The AFP raids on the ABC related to a series of stories by investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark called the Afghan Files.

The stories contained allegations there were unlawful killings by Australian special forces in Afghanistan based on information from leaked Defence documents.

The search warrant was issued on the basis of allegations of publishing classified material, based on the Crimes Act 1914.

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Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

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"If the law is the law and the AFP raids on the offices of the ABC and the very home of the News Limited journalist Annika Smethurst had nothing to do with the Government, change the law that led the Australian Federal Police to commit this outrage," Mr FitzSimons said.

Ms Smethurst was raided over her reports on leaked information that alleged the Government was seeking to boost domestic spying powers.

"We are in difficult times, facing serious issues," Mr FitzSimons said.

"The more that strong journalism, across the board, is supported and defended by the Government, embraced by the population and fearlessly pursued by its adherents … the stronger our nation will be."

The Andrew Olle Media Lecture is held in honour of the ABC broadcaster of the same name who died in 1995.

Money raised from the event goes to brain cancer research under a memorial fund which has been running for 21 years.

ABC managing director David Anderson delivered the news at Friday's event that Olle's family had decided to wind up the fund due to factors including increased commitments elsewhere.

Mr Anderson praised the work of Olle's wife, Annette, in running the fund.

"Her dedication and determination have resulted in several millions of dollars raised which has had a direct impact on advances made in how we treat brain cancer," he said.

Despite the closure of the fund, the annual media lecture will continue.

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