| 11.09,19. 04:42 AM |
ABC chair Ita Buttrose says AFP raids on media organisations damaged Australia's reputation
Photo: Ita Buttrose said the belief Australia has a free press has been "shaken to the core". (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
ABC chair Ita Buttrose has warned the "privilege of democracy" has been taken for granted in Australia in light of police raids on media organisations.
Ms Buttrose also argued the press had been "temporarily blinded" by rhetoric on security and counter-terrorism and that the raids had damaged Australia's international reputation.
"We have always supposed we have a free press. That belief has been shaken to the core in recent times," Ms Buttrose told the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties on Tuesday night.
"There is a perfect storm brewing in Australia — a combination of complacency and compliancy, declining trust in democratic institutions, including the media, and a swirl of misinformation and disinformation, no longer just on the dark edges of the digital world, but in the tools we use to navigate through our everyday lives."
Media outlets united to condemn the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids earlier this year on the ABC's Sydney offices and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton ordered the AFP to consider press freedom before investigating journalists but police would not rule out charging reporters who publish stories based on leaked, highly classified information.
Ms Buttrose said many Australians were "deeply shocked and disturbed" by the raid on the public broadcaster.
"There's no doubt in my mind that these recent events have tarnished Australia's standing on the world stage," she said.
"We have taken the privilege of democracy for granted for too long. It is impossible to understate the importance of the public's right to know and the media's ability to inform."
Ms Buttrose also criticised a "growing culture of secrecy" and questioned whether enough attention had been paid to counter-terrorism bills introduced since 2001.
"Much of this legislation has been done quietly ... So has the media been asleep at the wheel?" she asked.
"I don't think so. I think that in the glare of 'lawfare' headlights we've been temporarily blinded by security and counter terrorism rhetoric."
Criticism over the AFP media raids prompted two parliamentary inquiries into the issue of press freedom, both of which are expected to report back by the end of the year.