Monday, 4 May 2015
In Abbott’s Australia indirect government control of media and investigative journalists - through fear of arrest, trial and gaol sentence – is becoming entrenched through federal legislation.
The Guardian 27 April 2015:
Journalists who report on serious wrongdoing by Australian intelligence officers may still face prosecution under new national security laws, according to the commonwealth director of public prosecutions (CDPP).
Australia’s acting independent national security legislation monitor, Roger Gyles QC, is considering the impact of a new section inserted into the Asio Act in 2014 – section 35P – which would criminalise disclosure of information that relates to a “special intelligence operation”.
Gyles was scheduled to hold hearings on Monday as part of his inquiry into the laws, which were passed by the federal parliament with Labor’s support in 2014.
The new section has sparked concerns among news organisations, human rights groups and some opposition politicians. Journalists and whistleblowers may face jail for up to 10 years if they breach the disclosure offence.
There is no public interest consideration or defence that would allow a journalist to report on intelligence matters. But for a prosecution to be initiated by the CDPP, a public interest test must still be applied. The federal government relied in part on this check to reassure journalists who were critical of the new laws.
Unusually, the CDPP outlines two hypothetical scenarios that reporters might be placed in to consider whether it would proceed with a prosecution in a submission to Gyles’s inquiry.
In one scenario a journalist receives information about “serious wrongdoing by a commonwealth officer in the course of a special intelligence operation”. The journalist contacts Asio, which refuses to confirm or deny whether a special intelligence operation is under way, and eventually the journalist publishes the information.
While the CDPP indicates the public interest considerations would not favour a prosecution, it indicates that it might still consider the possibility.
“This scenario may well be one in which the public interest considerations either favour no prosecution taking place, or are ‘finely balanced’. As stated above the matters that will be taken into account in assessing whether or not a prosecution is in the public interest will be different in every matter,” the CDPP submission said.
The admission is likely to raise further concerns about the potential chilling effect the disclosure laws could have on the media.
ABC The Drum 17 March 2015:
The Coalition's push to save and search all of our metadata for at least two years will have a chilling effect on press freedom.
Journalists' sources will be compromised by metadata collection. Without the ability to interact with confidential sources without the government finding out, journalists may as well give the game away.
Even with the yet-unseen government amendments proposed yesterday, after negotiations with the Opposition, Australia is going in the opposite direction of our two closest allies the United States and the UK.
Requiring a warrant before searching journalists' metadata sounds like a modicum of protection. The public discussion around it indicates it will just be a "tick and flick" approach and won't give journalists or media organisations the right to argue their case.
The warrants will be obtained in secret and media organisations will be none the wiser.