Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s media fights for freedom of press – BUT NOT FOR JULIAN ASSANGE

Mainstream Media Fights for Own Freedom, But Not for Assange’s, Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 02/11/2019 BY PAUL GREGOIRE Major Australian mainstream media outlets joined forces a fortnight ago to launched the Right to Know campaign. It aims to see public interest journalism decriminalised, and safeguards for whistleblowers enhanced.This unprecedented display of unity has seen The Guardian, the ABC, Nine, News Corp, SBS and the MEAA join forces in calling on the government to enact reforms. And this is rather significant, considering some of these organisations have been much criticised for towing the party line.

The Right to Know has six demands: exceptions so journalists can’t be prosecuted under national security laws, freedom of information reform, defamation law reform, a narrowing of the information classified as secret, protections for whistleblowers and the right to contest warrants.

Of course, the campaign was sparked by the June AFP press raids, which saw agents rifle through the house of a News Corp journalist, as well as the offices of the national broadcaster, in what was understood by many to be a warning to the media and whistleblowers to keep quiet.

However, a glaring campaign omission is the case of an Australian publisher who’s currently being remanded in the UK over charges that apply in the US, which relate precisely to public interest journalism. Yet, the Australian media has all but forgotten their colleague, Julian Assange.

Silenced by association

“The Right to Know campaign drives to the heart of the matter more than many journalists realise,” remarked Ian Rose, a member of the Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition.

“While on the one hand, they’re right to finally be calling out the creeping incursions and restrictions into media freedoms,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “On the other, they don’t have the inner fortitude to stand up for Assange.”

According to Rose, there are two reasons that the Australian media has abandoned the Walkley award-winning journalist. One is that he’s “an egalitarian”, which “frightens the hell out of the ruling class”, as most of the work of WikiLeaks has been all about exposing their lies.

The second reason behind the silence is that the “oligarchs” are the “journalists’ paymasters”. And for this reason – which is underscored by the justifiable fear of losing their lives – journalists have refrained from “calling these people out”.

An excuse for silencing

Attorney general Christian Porter spoke out against the Right to Know campaign, claiming that by providing the media with the right to contest warrants could hinder criminal investigations. And he also asserted that the campaign demands could lead to national security threats.

As an example of how the media could become such a threat, Porter pointed to Assange having published leaked classified documents on WikiLeaks. The top lawmaker further set out that while this act of publication was widely condemned, the local industry still awarded Assange a Walkley……..

Neglecting an ally

And as for what the Australian media should be doing about one of its own locked away in isolation in circumstances that undermine the rule of law, Mr Rose says that it “ought to get over its jealousy and unite to support Assange”.

Indeed, the Right to Know campaign should embrace Assange’s cause, as it’s the quintessential example of the concerted crackdown on journalists that’s currently taking place across the western world. And there’s a clear correlation between his silencing and the local AFP raids.

“The way Assange is being treated is the way journalists are starting to be treated, and the way all of society will be treated if we don’t collectively call for a stop to the new dictatorial world order,” Rose warned.

And as an example of how this silencing of dissent is spreading beyond the media, Rose pointed to the recent assault on nonviolent climate activists, which has seen the application of ongoing arrests,  draconian bail conditions,  intimidatory procedures and the passing of restrictive laws……..https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/mainstream-media-fights-for-own-freedom-but-not-for-assanges/

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

A travesty of justice- extradition process of Julian Assange

November 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian film-makers to join in 10th Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro May 2020

Marcia Gomes de Oliveira shared a link. 2 Nov 19

Next year, May 2020, we’re celebrating the 10th birthday of the International Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro.

These filmmakers and producers have already agreed to come to Rio 2020: Peter Kaufmann (Australia), Kim Mavromatis (Australia), Laura Pires (Brazil), Angelo Lima (Brazil), Miguel Silveira (USA/Brazil), Cris Uberman (France), Marcus Schwenzel (Germany), Rainer Ludwigs (Germany), Michael von Hohenberg (Germany), Peter Anthony (Denmark), Michael Madson (Denmark), Lise Autogena (Denmark), Masako Sakata (Japan), Maurizio Torrealta (Italy), Alessandro Tesei (Italy), Amudhan R.P. (India), Tamotsu Matsubara (Japan), Tamiyoshi Tachibana (Japan), Tineke Van Veen (Netherlands), Mafalda Gameiro (Portugal), James Ramsay Cameron (Scotland), José Herrera Plaza (Spain), Marko Kattilakoski (Sweden), Edgar Hagen (Switzerland),Tetyana Chernyavska (Ukraine), Brittany Prater (USA), Ian Thomas Ash (Japan/USA).

Rio’s 10th International Uranium Film Festival is scheduled for May 21st to 31st. Do not miss it!

November 2, 2019 Posted by | art and culture, Audiovisual, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Australian government rejects call for help from Julian Assange’s legal team

Why is it that the Australian government is so helpful to Australian murderers and drug dealers imprisoned overseas, but so relentlessly unhelpful to an Australian whose only crime is to tell the truth?

Assange legal team asks for Australian government help amid growing health fears, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/assange-legal-team-asks-for-australian-government-help-amid-growing-health-fears-20191028-p534xw.html, By Rob Harris

October 28, 2019, Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison.

The WikiLeaks founder has been held in HM Prison Belmarsh since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had lived in asylum for almost seven years.

Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.

The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said.

His supporters say he is being kept in solitary confinement and is allowed out of his cell for only 45 minutes a day. At a court appearance last week, he appeared gaunt and disorientated.

Assange was due to be released on September 22 but was told at a court hearing last month he would be kept in jail because there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.

ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas.

“This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.”

If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course.

“He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s media under threat

‘It is all part of the same disease’: media and other key institutions under threat, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/it-is-all-part-of-the-same-disease-media-and-other-key-institutions-under-threat-20191028-p534z6.html, By Nick O’Malley, October 28, 2019 —The prosecution of journalists, cuts to the ABC budget and the appointment of “dud” politically connected officials to roles in key agencies present an unprecedented threat to democracy in Australia.“Media provides crucial accountability and transparency functions,” said a report by the Centre for Public Integrity, due to be released this week. “Investigative journalists often unearth wrongdoing long before any public integrity agencies investigate, for example the recent Crown Casino investigation by Nick McKenzie at The Age [and The Sydney Morning Herald], and the Four Corners investigation of police corruption in Queensland that triggered the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

“Media outlets have faced attacks in the form of centralisation of private ownership, funding cuts to public broadcasters, and potential prosecution of journalists, including News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst.”

One of the report’s authors, Geoffrey Watson, SC, former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said he had been shocked by how quickly the brutal type of politics that evolved in the United States and the United Kingdom, and partly led to the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, had taken root in Australia.

“One day you see the judiciary attacked and the next someone in the media,” said Mr Watson, who is a director of the Centre for Public Integrity. “On the third day it might be the CSIRO, they even attack our scientists. Some people don’t recognise it as the same problem, but it is all part of the same disease.”

He said the effectiveness of the media in Australia as a watchdog was not only threatened by personal and legal attacks by the government, but by regulations that had allowed ownership of newspapers to be reduced to an effective duopoly.

The report, entitled “Protecting the Integrity of Accountability Institutions”, said that a range of institutions – including the judiciary and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the public service, integrity commissions such as the ICAC, statutory authorities such as the Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Commission, and the CSIRO – had all been targeted in recent years by interested parties seeking to undermine their independence and public trust.

“These institutions are important not only because they ensure actual accountability, transparency and good governance but because they build confidence and trust within the Australian community,” it said. “When this confidence and trust is diminished, divisiveness and conflict increase. This impacts social cohesiveness and the economy, and the welfare of all Australians suffers. Ultimately, as international experience has shown, it is a threat to democracy itself.”

It cited as examples of interference attempts by federal ministers to influence the Victorian Court of Appeal in 2017 terrorism cases, sustained funding cuts and personal attacks on the ABC, and the de-skilling of the public service through the outsourcing of up to 50 per cent of government departments to contractors.

The report listed a series of principles that needed to be respected in order to protect the independence of the threatened institutions. They include protection from political retribution, secure and sufficient funding, secure tenure of senior officials and public access to advice to the government from accountability institutions, as well as the creation of an effective federal integrity watchdog.

The Centre for Public Integrity, a independently funded think tank, was formed earlier this year in part to champion the case for a such a body. The report comes in the midst of a campaign by Australian media, including the Herald and The Age, to defend the public right to information in the face of increasing attempts by government and government agencies to suppress information, prosecute whistleblowers and criminalise legitimate public interest journalism.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics | Leave a comment

ABC challenges the validity of Federal Police raids

We don’t want any sensationalist headlines,’ AFP allegedly told ABC, https://www.theage.com.au/national/we-don-t-want-any-sensationalist-headlines-afp-allegedly-told-abc-20191028-p534ux.htmlby Michaela Whitbourn ,October 28, 2019 —An Australian Federal Police agent told the ABC it wanted to avoid “sensationalist headlines” such as “AFP raids ABC” before it seized a raft of documents from the broadcaster’s Sydney headquarters, the Federal Court has heard.

The ABC is challenging the legal validity of the search warrant authorising the June 5 raid by the federal police on its offices in Ultimo and is seeking the return of documents seized at the time. Continue reading

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Australian Federal Police put their case at Federal Court hearing about their raid on ABC

No role’ for implied freedom of political communication in ABC raid decision: AFP, The Age  Michaela Whitbourn, October 29, 2019 The ABC had “no basis” for claiming the implied freedom of political communication acted as a handbrake on a court’s power to issue a warrant to the Australian Federal Police to raid its Sydney headquarters, lawyers for the police have told the Federal Court.

The national broadcaster is challenging the legal validity of the search warrant authorising the June 5 raid on its offices in Ultimo and is seeking the return of documents seized at the time.

After a series of preliminary legal fights earlier this year, the full hearing in the Federal Court commenced on Monday and continued on Tuesday with submissions from the federal police.

The ABC is challenging the warrant on four bases, including the decision to grant the search warrant, made by a Local Court registrar, fell foul of the implied freedom of political communication in the Commonwealth Constitution…….

In documents filed in court, the ABC argues the implied freedom is relevant and “investigative journalism in the public interest that relies on information provided to journalists by confidential sources … is fundamental to the maintenance of the Australian system of representative democracy” which is provided for in the Australian Constitution.  ……

David William McBride, a former military lawyer, has previously admitted leaking material to the ABC that formed the basis of its reports and has been charged with a range of criminal offences.

Mr Williams, for the federal police, told the court Mr McBride had supplied documents to other news outlets who had not published the material.

The hearing continues.https://www.theage.com.au/national/no-role-for-implied-freedom-of-political-communication-in-abc-raid-decision-afp-20191029-p535a7.html

October 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

A new court order is being abused in order to harass a journalist

 

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Media’s dwindling role in Democracy Panel

Toxic “Safety” orders the latest tool to shut down free speech  https://www.michaelwest.com.au/toxic-safety-orders-the-latest-tool-to-shut-down-free-speech/, by Michael West — 25 October 2019 It’s #YourRightToKnow. There are many ways to silence the media: persecution of whistleblowers, defamation threats, contempt of court claims, lobbying of media bosses by powerful interests, injurious falsehood claims, the government’s draconian secrecy laws and police raids on journalists. Michael West reports on the latest abuse against free speech.

Today we can unveil yet another threat to freedom of speech: the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO), a court order which is intended to help victims of domestic violence but instead is being abused as a tool to harass journalists, namely Sandi Keane, Editor of this publication.

It’s #YourRightToKnow. There are many ways to silence the media: persecution of whistleblowers, defamation threats, contempt of court claims, lobbying of media bosses by powerful interests, injurious falsehood claims, the government’s draconian secrecy laws and police raids on journalists. Michael West reports on the latest abuse against free speech.

Today we can unveil yet another threat to freedom of speech: the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO), a court order which is intended to help victims of domestic violence but instead is being abused as a tool to harass journalists, namely Sandi Keane, Editor of this publication.

There have been some reports about the abuse of Personal Safety Intervention Orders in Victoria by those seeking malicious revenge. The editor of this journal, Sandi Keane, is believed to be the first journalist to be silenced in this way. She’s attended court seven times after receiving two Orders and has been threatened with a third. “An Intervention Order is now a sure fire way to shut down a story,” says Keane. “Getting an Intervention Order in Victoria is instant and cost-free (no lawyer required).”

The two essential criteria are for applicants to claim they have been threatened and are suffering mental stress as result.

An Interim Order will be issued immediately against anyone in Australia.

Sandi Keane says the applicants lied about the threats but no evidence was needed until the Final Contested Hearing some 12-18 months later.

The effect on public interest reporting therefore is chilling as most news is time-critical, so by the time the story might eventually be published, its news value might have evaporated.

There are no consequences for abusing the legal system and costs cannot be claimed by the Respondent in the proceedings.

The Applicant can also manipulate the date of the final hearing as a magistrate will only set a date for the Final Hearing if both sides have had a chance to get a lawyer; are ready for the hearing; or agree to the date.

Furthermore, court reporters cannot report on an Intervention Order unless they withhold the name of the court and names of the relevant parties.

So, not only does an Intervention Order trump an Injunction in the High Court with all its attendant costs and adverse publicity, it also ticks the Suppression Order box.

Yet the sting in the tail is that, from the date of the Interim Order, all references to the “protected person” must be deleted from any media site including social media (Condition 10).

Journalists can forget about getting another colleague to publish the story as this is prohibited under Condition 8.

Breaching the order risks a criminal conviction or prison sentence.

Journalists union, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), has met with the Victorian Attorney General with the hope of amending the Personal Safety Intervention Order Act to protect freedom of the press. In a letter to the Chief Magistrate, the MEAA wrote:

“This is a dangerous assault on press freedom, has a chilling effect on legitimate journalism in the public interest and undermines the public’s right to know.”

Editor’s Note:

Sandi Keane’s investigation was into the fraudsters operating in the pedigree dog industry. She was successful in contesting one of these orders. The unsuccessful Applicant in this case had served a jail sentence for fraud and was also found guilty of arson. The other applicant also has a conviction for fraud. These two people have taken out five PSIOs of which we know. The others were granted against people who had taken legal action against them, made an official complaint or given evidence against them.

The rise of PSIOs, and their abuse, coincides with the rise in other forms of suppression of free speech in Australia, by all three branches of government: the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.

It’s time to enshrine free speech in the constitution such as is the case in the US. You can take action to stand up for your right to know. Check out MEAA’s Take Action site here.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Attorney General Christian Porter backs laws that restrict journalists’ reporting

October 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, media, politics | Leave a comment

Judge denies Julian Assange a delay in extradition hearings

October 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, politics international | 1 Comment

14 Regional News Media join the campaign for press freedom

October 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

A Media Freedom Act for Australia?

Australia needs a Media Freedom Act. Here’s how it could work, https://theconversation.com/australia-needs-a-media-freedom-act-heres-how-it-could-work-125315?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2022%202019%20-%201440613637&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20October%2022%202019%20-%201440613637+CID_dab722b5Rebecca Ananian-Welsh
Senior Lecturer, TC Beirne School of Law, The University of QueenslandOctober 22, 2019 Australians picked up their morning papers yesterday to find heavily blacked-out text instead of front-page headlines. This bold statement was instigated by the “Your Right to Know” campaign, an unlikely coalition of Australian media organisations fighting for press freedom and source protection.A key reform advocated by a range of organisations and experts – including our research team at the University of Queensland – is the introduction of a Media Freedom Act. Unlike human rights or anti-discrimination legislation, there is no clear precedent for such an act.

So what exactly might a Media Freedom Act look like and is it a good idea?

Raids and response

It was the June raids on the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC’s Sydney headquarters that revealed the fragile state of press freedom in Australia. Two parliamentary inquiries into press freedom are on foot, with public hearings before the Senate committee  starting last Friday.

Parliament will soon face the question: can we protect national security without sacrificing that cornerstone of liberal democracy, press freedom? If so, how?

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s immediate response to the raids was to state that journalists would be prosecuted if they received top-secret documents. A month later, Dutton issued a ministerial directive to the AFP that emphasised the importance of press freedom and the need for restrained action against journalists.

Attorney-General Christian Porter’s subsequent directive was more moderate, ensuring that he would have the final say on whether journalists would be prosecuted on the basis of their work “in a professional capacity as a journalist”.

These directives may reflect a burgeoning appreciation within government of the importance of the press in ensuring democratic free speech and accountability.

However, the laws that undermine press freedom by targeting journalists and their sources remain on the books. These laws include many of the now 82 (and counting) national security laws enacted since September 11 2001. This is more than anywhere else in the world and some of these laws grant the government uniquely severe powers of detention and interrogation.

A Media Freedom Act could serve three key roles, making it an appropriate and advantageous option in the protection of national security, press freedom and democracy.

Recognise the fourth estate

First, a Media Freedom Act would recognise and affirm the importance of press freedom in Australia. This recognition would support the fourth estate role of the media and demonstrate Australia’s commitment to democratic accountability and the rule of law. It would carry the weight of legislation rather than the relative flimsiness of ad hoc directives.

In this way, a Media Freedom Act would represent a clear commitment to the public’s right and capacity to know about how they are governed and power is exercised.

The act would also recognise that press freedom is not an absolute, but may be subject to necessary and proportionate limitations.

A culture of disclosure

econd, it would support a transition from a culture of secrecy to a culture of disclosure and open government across the public sector. This role could be served by requiring the public sector (including law enforcement and intelligence officers) to consider the impact of their decisions on press freedom and government accountability and to adopt the least intrusive option that is reasonably available.

This requirement echoes Dutton’s directive. It is already part of the law of Victoria, the ACT and Queensland, where free expression is protected within those jurisdictions’ charters of rights. Like the charters, a federal Media Freedom Act would aim to bring about a cultural shift and contribute to the gradual rebuilding of trust between government and the media.

At federal level, the parliament must already consider the impact of a new law on freedom of expression under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act. A Media Freedom Act could reinforce the importance of parliament and the public sector considering the impact on press freedom when it debates and enacts new laws.

Journalism is not a crime

Third, and most importantly, a Media Freedom Act would protect press freedom by ensuring legitimate journalism was excluded from the scope of criminal offences.

It is important that this be in the form of an exemption rather than a defence. This has no substantial legal impact. But, crucially, an exemption conveys that the journalist had not engaged in criminal wrongdoing.

It also places the onus on the prosecution to prove the exemption doesn’t apply. This therefore alleviates the chilling effect on press freedom caused by the threat of court action.

The framing of the protection will attract debate (what, after all, is a journalist? And what is journalism?).

A good starting point is the existing journalism defence to the general secrecy offence in section 122.5 of the Criminal Code. For that defence to apply, the person must have:

  • dealt with the information in their capacity as a “person engaged in the business of reporting news, presenting current affairs or expressing editorial or other content in news media”
  • have reasonably believed that engaging in the conduct was in the public interest.

A single act or many amendments?

A Media Freedom Act is not a panacea; it would not avoid the need for a detailed review of Australia’s legal frameworks for their impact on press freedom.

In particular, protections for private sector, public sector and intelligence whistleblowers need attention. Suppression orders and defamation laws also have a serious chilling effect on Australian journalism. However, the present approach of considering dozens of individual schemes for their discrete impact on press freedom, and seeking technical amendments to each to alleviate that impact, is cumbersome, illogical and destined to create loopholes.



Australia’s national security laws are uniquely broad and complex. At present, an inconsistent array of (notably few) journalism-based defences and exemptions from prosecution are scattered across these laws. Inconsistency leads to confusion, and overlapping offences make it even more difficult for journalists to know when they are crossing the line into criminal conduct.

The imperative to protect press freedom is fundamental and deserving of general recognition and protection. In light of these concerns, our international obligations and the rule-of-law concerns for legal clarity, consistency and proportionality, it is time for a Media Freedom Act.

 

October 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics | Leave a comment

Australian media push for press freedom (pity they’re not helping Julian Assange, though)

October 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

New involvement of Attorney General in press freedom

Attorney General wades into press freedom debate, says his approval is needed before journalists can be charged  https://mumbrella.com.au/attorney-general-wades-into-press-freedom-debate-says-his-approval-is-needed-before-journalists-can-be-charged-600711, October 2, 2019

by HANNAH BLACKISTON   The debate around press freedom has taken another turn with the federal Attorney General Christian Porter issuing a directive which prevents journalists being charged under certain sections of Australia’s secrecy laws without his formal approval.

The order could shield News Corp’s Annika Smethurst and the ABC’s Dan Oakes and SamClark who were named in Australia Federal Police (AFP) warrants used during raids in June and have not yet been cleared of any criminal charges. The move, however, has ignited debate about an elected politician’s direct involvement in police matters and press freedom.

Now, Smethurst, Oakes and Clark can only be charged if the Attorney-General gives written consent to the charges. A directive was signed to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) in September, the details of which have only come to light this week. The decision follows legal challenges from both the ABC and News Corp Australia over the legitimacy of the raids and the warrants used.

“The direction means where the CDPP independently considers that there is a public interest in a prosecution for one of the relevant offences involving a journalist, the consent of the Attorney-General will also be required as a separate and additional safeguard,” Porter said in a statement.

“This will allow the most detailed and cautious consideration of how an allegation of a serious offence should be balanced with our commitment to freedom of the press.

“I have previously said that I would be seriously disinclined to approve prosecutions of journalists except in the most exceptional circumstances and would pay particular attention to whether a journalist was simply operating according to the generally accepted principles of public interest journalism.”

Porter hasn’t yet commented on the cases regarding Smethurst, Oakes or Clark.

An ABC spokesperson called the directive a ‘welcome step’, but said the organisation continues to look forward to the results of the two press freedom inquiries which have been triggered by the raids.

“The Attorney General’s directive is a welcome step. It is one plank in a raft of legislative reform that the ABC identified in its submissions to the two concurrent media freedom parliamentary inquiries,” said the spokesperson.

“The ABC looks forward to seeing the recommendations from those inquiries as well as an expeditious conclusion to the current AFP investigation into ABC journalists.”

Campbell Reid, group executive for corporate affairs, policy and government relationships at News Corp Australia, was harsher, calling the direction “unremarkable”.

“The direction issued by The Attorney General is unremarkable. They make the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecution seek the Attorney General’s consent to take legal action against journalists in a few more instances but they offer no comfort for journalists disclosing information in the public interest that they are safe from prosecution for doing their job,” said Reid.

“This so-called safeguard falls a long way short of what media organisations are seeking to recognise the role of journalists to keep the public informed.”

The Law Council of Australia has also weighed in on the move, with president Arthur Moses SC citing grave concerns over the Attorney General’s involvement with press freedom.

“I have grave concerns that this sort of direction undermines the independence of the CDPP by requiring her to obtain the consent of the Attorney General before prosecuting an offence,” Moses said.

“What will enhance press freedoms in this country is a proper review of our laws to ensure that the actions of journalists doing their job as a watchdog of government are not criminalised and put at risk of prosecution.

“I have no doubt the Attorney General would act in good faith. But it puts the Attorney General – a politician – in the position of authorising prosecutions of journalists in situations where they may have written stories critical of his government.

“It creates an apprehension on the part of journalists that they will need to curry favour with the government in order to avoid prosecution. The media must be able to lawfully report on matters of public interest without fear or favour.

“Journalists should not need to fear prosecution because of a story that embarrasses government.”

 

October 3, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

The government seeks to intimidate the media

The national security bureaucracy doesn’t want a police state. It is more ambitious than that. The hope is to return Australian culture to the conformity and political quietude of the 1950s.

Now the government seeks to intimidate the media through laws and criminal prosecutions into a deferential posture once more, with editors becoming habituated to asking permission before they publish.

Clinton Fernandes, The Witness K case and government secrecy  https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2019/09/28/the-witness-k-case-and-government-secrecy/15695928008833  In recent months, I have sat in court as an observer as Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery has faced charges over disclosing information about the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). On Thursday, Collaery’s case was back before the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. It is a good time, then, to consider this case and the national security state’s assault on Australia’s democratic culture more generally.

In 2004, ASIS installed listening devices in the government offices of newly independent Timor-Leste to eavesdrop on its internal discussions during oil and gas negotiations with Australia. The espionage operation occurred while Alexander Downer and John Howard, who were respectively foreign minister and prime minister at the time, said they were deploying Australia’s resources against extremist Muslim terrorism in Indonesia.

But the Timor operation diverted precious ASIS resources away from the war on terror. On September 9, 2004, Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists succeeded in bombing the Australian embassy in Indonesia. To make matters worse, the Timor bugging occurred under cover of an aid project, jeopardising the safety of Australian aid workers everywhere.

A senior ASIS officer, known only as Witness K, expressed concerns about the Timor bugging operation. His career is believed to have suffered as a consequence. He approached the inspector-general of intelligence and security and obtained permission to speak with a lawyer – Bernard Collaery. Both men are now on trial: Collaery in the ACT Supreme Court, where he will exercise his constitutional right to a jury trial, and Witness K in the ACT Magistrates Court……. Continue reading

October 3, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, media | Leave a comment