Australian media stages front-page ‘blackout’ to protest against govt clampdown on press freedom
In a rare show of unity, all major news outlets in Australia have staged a mass protest against increasingly draconian secrecy laws passed by the government, which are infringing on press freedom and the public’s right to know.
Rivals News Corp Australia and Nine, among others, printed front pages which showed blacked-out, ‘redacted’ text emblazoned with red stamps that read “secret.”
Every time a government imposes new restrictions on what journalists can report, Australians should ask: 'What are they trying to hide from me?' - Why I've taken a stand against increasing government secrecy in Australia https://t.co/BQek4KvKyB#righttoknowpic.twitter.com/cpXJEvz7pj— Michael Miller (@michaelmillerau) October 20, 2019
The protest was organized by the Right to Know Coalition, with the support of numerous TV, radio, newspaper and digital outlets.
Collectively, the press are arguing against national security laws which are stifling the freedom of the press and, in doing so, creating a “culture of secrecy” in Australia wherein freedom of information requests relating to even the most trivial government affairs are being denied. Some 60 laws relating to secrecy have been passed in the past two decades.
ABC Managing Director David Anderson warned that “Australia is at risk of becoming the world’s most secretive democracy.” The Australian media argue the government is trying to penalize whistleblowing, criminalize journalism, and infringe upon the public’s right to know.
The protest comes after a series of high-profile raids on the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a News Corp Australia journalist following the publication of articles detailing alleged war crimes and domestic spying carried out by the government.Also on rt.com Australian feds raid broadcaster’s office over Afghan war crime stories
Three journalists may face prosecution following the raids for their part in the whistleblower articles’ publication.
During these press investigations, it was revealed that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service had bugged the offices of Timor-Leste officials during a multimillion-dollar resource negotiation in 2004.
Meanwhile, Australian Tax Office whistleblower Richard Boyle is facing up to 161 years in prison for revealing abuse of powers by the Australian tax authority apparatus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that while press freedom was important, it is still subject to the rule of law, adding that “no one was above the law.”
That includes me, or any journalist, or anyone else.
A press freedom inquiry is under way, the findings of which will be revealed in parliament next year. The media are fighting for the right to challenge government applications for warrants against journalists, while calling for freedom of information and defamation law reform, and the introduction of special protections for journalists and public sector whistleblowers.
A free media & protection for whistleblowers to speak truth to power are essential for a robust & healthy democracy. A Government obsessed with secrecy is a Govt that doesn’t deserve the trust of the people. An attack on media freedom is an attack on all Australians #righttoknowpic.twitter.com/eKauOG8ts8— Sarah Hanson-Young💚 (@sarahinthesen8) October 21, 2019
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