MPs, we’d like to talk about media freedom
WELCOME home Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan and Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan.
Now that you've flown back to your sunny electorate after a week of Canberra sittings, we want to talk about press freedom.
You may have noticed major news outlets, including this masthead, are running heavily redacted front pages this week while you were in meetings.
The truth is, something is awfully wrong with media freedom in this country.
Public issues such as the potential misuse of personal data or national security concerns and surveillance powers seldom get reported on because of onerous laws curtailing our ability to do our jobs.
Freedom of Information requests on so many of these key issues are redacted to the point there is no information to reveal.
When journalists and news outlets do run stories of serious public interest, often putting whistleblowers at risk, they are met with heavy-handed and unjustified responses such as from the Australian Federal Police.
You need only look at the recent actions taken against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC's head offices to see how dire the situation is.
The public has a right to know what's going on.
The Advocate and major news outlets across the country are calling on you to address serious shortcomings in the law that prevent us doing our jobs - because of fear of prosecution or punishment.
Among our demanded changes are:
- The right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organisations before the warrant is issued
- Law changes to ensure public sector whistleblowers are adequately protected
- A new regime that limits which documents can be marked "secret"
- A review of Freedom of Information laws
- Journalists to be exempt from national security laws enacted over the past seven years that currently can put them in jail for doing their job
- A reform of defamation laws.
This is not just a campaign about media freedom, it's about the public's right to know what governments and top organisations are up to behind the veil of secrecy.