- Australia’s media organisations have come together on Monday to fight government censorship of the press.
- From printing censored front pages of the nation’s newspapers to running articles on how the media is being affected, the media is highlighting the restricted environment they now operate in.
- It comes after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the ABC offices as well as the home of News Corp journalist Anika Smethurst.
In a rare display of unity, Australia’s major media organisations have come together this week to make a stand.
Every front page of the country’s newspapers appeared censored on newsstands on Monday, as various outlets joined the Right to Know — a campaign for media freedom.
“Australia is at risk of becoming the world’s most secretive democracy. We’ve seen the public’s right to know slowly erode over the past two decades, with the introduction of laws that make it more difficult for people to speak up when they see wrongdoing and for journalists to report these stories,” ABC managing director David Anderson said in a release issued to Business Insider Australia.
“No one is above the law but something in our democracy is not working as it should when we fail to protect people acting in the public interest.”
The campaign cites 60 different pieces of legislation that have been introduced over the last two decades — laws it claims seek to “criminalise journalism and penalised whistleblowing”.
It comes after a string concerted attacks on the Australian media this year. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the ABC’s Sydney offices as well as News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s own home in Canberra. Both media organisations are waiting to hear the outcome of each investigation and whether their journalists will face prosecution.
In response to Monday’s campaign, AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw told a Senate inquiry that the AFP had launched an internal inquiry into its media investigations.
“The review will not be an audit into current matters at hand but rather a holistic approach to ensure we have in place investigative policy and guidelines that are fit for purpose,” Kershaw said.
He was less sure in his answering of whether or not more media raids were planned.
I asked the AFP Commissioner if the AFP is planning any further raids on journalists' homes. His answer? Not that he's aware of but he'll be having a look. #estimates #auspol #righttoknow pic.twitter.com/vHgbfGo9tz
— Senator Raff Ciccone (@SenRaffCiccone) October 21, 2019
“This is not just about police raids of journalists’ homes and our nation’s newsrooms,” Nine Entertainment’s CEO Hugh Marks said. “This is much bigger than the media. It’s about defending the basic right of every Australian to be properly informed about the important decisions the government is making in their name.”
Australia's media organisations are united today in a campaign against excessive government secrecy. Is this the Australia we want to live in? #RightToKnow https://t.co/SPBMDyA7ou pic.twitter.com/mYLVLKBoNC
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) October 20, 2019
Whistleblowers, in particular, appear to have been in the government’s firing line. Take the case of Richard Boyle, an ATO employee who went to the media when his own organisation planned to take money from people’s bank accounts without their knowledge. In doing so he threw his entire career away and now faces being sentenced to 161 years imprisonment if found guilty.
#YourRightToKnow. A collaboration between major media organisations in Australia.
— Richard D Boyle (@Richard_D_Boyle) October 20, 2019
The media is now calling for legislative changes to protect whistleblowers like Boyle as well as the journalists who endeavour to tell their stories. The proposed reforms would prevent journalists from being jailed and force the government to consider the public interest before conducting raids and prosecutions.
Without these, Australia’s media is warning that our news may as well just be censored like today’s newspapers.
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