Australia: Government plans to circumvent protections on journalists’ data

The proposed International Productions Order law will allow Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to access the telecommunications data of journalists without a warrant. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) warn of the dangers of the proposed law to press freedom in Australia.

Credit: IFJ

If passed, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Productions Order) Bill 2020 would give ASIO access to the public’s personal information that is stored by technology companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Youtube and Microsoft. The bill would also allow US government agencies to access Australian’s data. The law does not include protections for journalists that previously required authorities to obtain a warrant to access a journalists’ information.

The current proposal allows an International Productions Order to be obtained by applying to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s security division. While the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is an independent body, it has recently come under criticism after political appointees to the tribunal.

The bill follows a series of raids on the media by Australian Federal Police in 2019 that highlighted how journalism has been criminalised by Australia’s National Security Laws.

MEAA said: “Australia is steadily repressing the essential freedoms of a democracy. This must stop. There is an urgent need for comprehensive law reform. Warrants must be required before accessing journalists’ data. An application for a warrant must be contestable and subject to review. Whistleblowers must be adequately protected. And there must be a roll back of the so-called ‘national security’ laws that have been passed by the Parliament in the past two decades”.

The IFJ said: “The International Productions Law undermines a journalists’ ethical obligation to protect their sources, putting whistleblowers in danger and threatening the public’s right to know. Australia’s Parliament has continued to pass laws to suppress information under the false pretence of national security, threatening the foundations of democracy. The IFJ call on the Australian government to conduct an urgent review of the Bill and national security laws that seek to effectively criminalise journalism.”

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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