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Greens to introduce Media Freedom Act

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 19 Feb 2020

A Media Freedom Act to protect the public’s right to know and whistleblowers who speak truth to power, will be introduced into the Senate, Greens Media Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced today.
Senator Hanson-Young who is Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms, said there had been a serious erosion of press freedoms in Australia which was deeply concerning and needing fixing.

“The court ruling on the ABC raids on Monday, which comes after the ABC Ultimo headquarters raid and the raid on the home of a NewsCorp journalist, shows our laws are broken,” she said.

“Journalism is not a crime. We must enshrine media freedoms in legislation which is why I will introduce a Media Freedom Act.

“It’s clear current laws have encroached on journalists’ freedom, not just their ability to write sensitive stories but also to receive information from sensitive sources.”

The Media Freedom Act that Senator Hanson-Young will introduce will:

  • Ensure a contested warrants process, where law enforcement would need to apply to a judge to search a media outlet or access a journalist’s metadata;
  • Protect whistleblowers by introducing a public interest defence;
  • Put the onus on prosecutors to disprove public interest rather than journalists to prove it;
  • Overall, enacts shield laws to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.

“We need contested warrants and protection of journalist’s sources. These are two key reforms witnesses have called for through the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“A contested warrants process would mean police can’t just raid a news outlets premises or the home of a journalist like we saw with the ABC and News Corp raids. There would be checks and balance and consideration of what is in the public interest.

“In just two years there’s been about 22 pieces of legislation the Federal Government has rammed through the Parliament that increase secrecy in our democracy, under a guise of ‘national security’. 

“The truth is, those in power don’t want the public to know what they’re up to and are shutting down transparency and accountability to serve their own interests.

“The campaign by the Right to Know coalition and evidence given at the Senate Inquiry has provided many examples of wrongdoing and misconduct that would never have had a spotlight on them without whistleblowers and the protection of journalists’ sources and media freedoms. 

“What’s really at stake here is one of the pillars of our democracy. From the Afghan Files to Sports Rorts, the Morrison Government is more worried about covering its backside than national security.

“When trust in politics is already so low, a bill to protect public interest journalism is like an insurance policy for our democracy.”

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