Proposed encryption bill threat to journalism in Australia

The proposed encryption legislation in Australia has raised serious concerns about journalism and possible threats. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have called on the Australian government to address the concerns and make necessary changes.

The draft bill proposes three fundamental things: create obligations for what organizations must do to assist law enforcement; create warrants to allow law enforcement to seize information directly from a device; and allow law enforcement to access more data through current warrants.

MEAA’s submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security said: “MEAA is gravely concerned that the proposed legislation is neither reasonable nor proportionate. MEAA’s journalist members are especially concerned that warrants and orders may be issued in cases where matters of public interest have been reported through the provision of information by confidential sources and which attract penalties under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. The breach of such a confidence by a journalist offends the Code of Ethics and endangers coverage of issues deserving public scrutiny.”

Nearly 100 submissions have been made to the inquiry and the majority have raised concerns about its impacts.

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said: “This bill would grant access to the communications data of journalists without any proper judicial oversight, and with no consideration of the need to protect public interest reporting. Journalists increasingly rely on encrypted communications to protect the identity of confidential sources. Offering this protection is vital. It gives whistleblowers the confidence to come forward with public interest concerns. In the absence of that confidence many important stories will never come to light.”

The IFJ said: “The possible access to journalist data is a grave concern for the safety and security of journalists in Australia, and their sources. Ensuring journalist sources are safe and secure. We reiterate the calls by MEAA to ensuring this protection.”

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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