Media bosses unite to demand law changes after police raids on ABC, News Corp journalists

| 26.06,19. 08:43 AM |

Media bosses unite to demand law changes after police raids on ABC, News Corp journalists

Photo: The AFP raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist have united media bosses. (ABC News: Taryn Southcombe)

Three of the nation's media bosses are demanding greater protections for whistleblowers and journalists, in a rare show of public unity prompted by recent police raids.

Last month, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) searched the home of News Corp political journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC's Sydney headquarters, over two separate stories based on the leaks of highly classified information.

In the days after the raids, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he understood the concerns from the media and the public about the way the situation had been handled, and suggested there could be a discussion on how to protect the work of the press and those who provide information that is in the public interest to be published.

Few incidents have brought the media together in such a way, and the National Press Club (NPC) in Canberra will today play host to executives from the ABC, Nine and News Corp in a debate about the freedom of the fourth estate.

ABC managing director David Anderson will tell the NPC he is heartened to hear members of the Government suggest a free media is a "foundation stone of democracy", but argues the law does not adequately reflect those ideals.

"Decriminalising journalism is a mandatory first step," he will say.

"The Criminal Code and the Defence Act both make it an offence for reporters to receive certain types of information.

"No-one deserves to be punished for doing their job and pursuing information that is clearly in the public interest."

The ABC is taking the AFP to the Federal Court, challenging the search warrant relating to the Afghan Files investigation published in 2017.

News Corp is taking its legal fight straight to the High Court, arguing the raids on its reporter's home over her story on plans to expand the powers of the nation's intelligence agencies breach the constitution's implied right of political communication.

The company's executive chairman, Michael Miller, argues there is a strong need to "protect the public's right to know".

"We demand the right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organisations before the warrant is issued," Mr Miller is expected to tell the NPC.

"Public sector whistleblowers must be adequately protected and the current laws need to change.

"We need a new regime that limits which documents can be stamped 'Secret'."

Miller is demanding a review of freedom of information laws, and says journalists should be exempted from the last seven years' worth of national security laws "that put can put them in jail for just doing their jobs".

Bad legislation and overzealous officials hampering media: Marks

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks, whose responsibilities have been expanded from overseeing the company's core television operations to include former Fairfax newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review, will echo Miller's concerns about the "right to know".

"As a society, we shouldn't fear truth. We shouldn't fear debate. We shouldn't fear opinions," he is expected to say.

"We are operating at a time when a combination of factors — including technological change, bad legislation across several fronts and overzealous officials in the judiciary, bureaucracy and security services — have steadily eroded the freedom within which we the press can operate.

"Doing what journos do best is never easy. Breaking big stories and conducting major investigations that serve the greater good is tough, relentless work. But work rendered increasingly difficult by the myriad of hurdles I've mentioned."

However, Marks will tell the NPC that there is a balancing act when it comes to national security, and warn that journalists may have to put such interests "before their desire to publish or broadcast".

The National Press Club will be live on the ABC News Channel from 12:30pm AEST on Wednesday.


(Votes: 0)

Write Your Comment

Other News

Aged Care Royal Commission hears Japara Healthcare CEO dismiss patient assault numbers Mobile phones to be banned in Victoria state schools from 'first to last bell' Alleged Woolworths shoplifter filmed ripping trolley full of groceries from employee Man accused of murdering neighbour in Parkes after argument over barking dogs Mascot Towers residents in shock after a report finds the building may be sinking Darwin CBD buildings evacuated after magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Banda Sea Police seek man over alleged train station robbery Sharrouf children among Australian orphans freed from Syrian warzone in secret rescue mission Meteor lights up Queensland night sky leaving observers scared and amazed Brisbane bus stop shooting: Man charged after couple shot while cowering behind shelter Tullamarine Freeway sign that crushed car not given mandatory checks, report finds Girl dies after being hit by Lamborghini outside Adelaide Chinese restaurant Mascot Towers residents to receive emergency accommodation funding from NSW Government Elderly Sydney hoarder missing after home engulfed in fire Opal card fares capped at $50 a week for NSW commuters Tax office dob-in-a-dodger phone line runs hot as it tries to crack down on $50 billion black economy Mother of newborn baby found dead in Newcastle backyard is taken to hospital Queensland flu season turns deadly with 38 lives already claimed Mascot Towers owners agree to foot $1 million repair bill as residents remain homeless Jail for shop owner who shot and killed portrait seller, stored body in wheelie bin for 17 years Woolworths under fire as NSW pubs are investigated over free drinks for pokies players Can a sperm donor be considered a legal parent? In a landmark decision, the High Court says yes Man detained after brandishing 'toy gun' outside Parramatta court Buying a new high-rise apartment is a risk best avoided Woman charged with murder of ex-girlfriend who fell from Zetland high-rise apartment Thousands of fish killed after Byron Bay residents pressure council to open lagoon Patients warned after Sydney doctors gave incorrectly stored, expired vaccinations NSW building industry facing 'crisis of confidence' after second apartment block evacuation Granville MP Julia Finn hits out at NSW Government over lack of funding for new Westmead Public School Arrests in 1995 gang rape case despite police allegedly destroying evidence