Australia: IFJ submission to Senate Inquiry into press freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) made a submission to Australia’s Senate Inquiry into Press Freedom on October 8, 2019. The IFJ and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) call on the Australian Government to reform their laws and acknowledge the gross violations against press freedom that have resulted from the government’s interventions.

Redacted Australia newspaper Credit: AFP

The IFJ has made seven recommendations to the Senate Inquiry calling for reforms to enhance press freedom. The first public hearing into the Senate inquiry occurred on October 18, 2019. Today marks the second public hearing, and the final report is due on March 20, 2020.

Since September 11, 2001, Australian Parliament has passed 82 national security laws. The Australian Government has undermined the security of journalists worldwide by setting a precedent for other governments to cite and use Australia as justification for the abridgment of the rights of journalists and media workers.  

The passing of these laws has eroded Australia’s press freedom. On June 4 and 5, Australia Federal Police raided the home of Canberra journalist Annika Smethurst and the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Despite the injustice of these raids, Australia’s Federal Court rejected the ABC case challenging the legality of the raid. Annika is also challenging the raid on her home in the High Court. Even if Annika is successful, it is unlikely the authorities will face any consequences.

MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy said: “I think there is no doubt that the very public nature of these raids in combination with the deluge of legislation we’ve seen in recent years will succeed in intimidating whistleblowers from coming forward with information in the public interest and without the bravery of whistleblowers coming forward, investigative journalism becomes impossible in many aspects.”

The IFJ said: “Public interest journalism in Australia is effectively criminalised. National security laws are being used as a false pretence to protect the government from embarrassment. The public has a right to know how the government is functioning and journalists have the right to conduct their work without fear of retribution from the government.

Parliament has failed to protect the country’s democracy by employing dangerous rhetoric of national security to limit dissent. Australia’s democracy relies on the flow of information from the media to constituents. We urge the Australian Government to introduce reforms to protect press freedom.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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