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Australian Press in perilous state on World Press Freedom Day

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 3 May 2017

On World Press Freedom Day, where the fundamental principles of press freedom are celebrated, Australia’s media is in its worst shape in years, the Australian Greens said.

“Australian commentators can be quick to point to China, or Turkey, or elsewhere in the middle east, as regions that do not enjoy press freedom, but the sad reality is that right here at home we have our own significant attacks on press freedom to contend with,” said Australian Greens Co-deputy Leader and Communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said today.

“In recent times Liberal and Labor have joined together to criminalise acts of journalism. A journalist reporting on an ASIO Special Intelligence Operation, whether the journalist knows what it is or not, can be sent to prison for 10 years.

“The Australian Federal Police admitted to illegally accessing a journalists metadata, but have not informed the journalist and have not punished the officer.

“Journalists can be imprisoned for receiving leaked documents. Bumbling Attorney-General George Brandis wants to extend the ASIO SIO laws to cover AFP Controlled Operations.

“And on today of all days, a month after giving the CEO a multimillion dollar bonus, Fairfax management announced a cut of 125 jobs from newsrooms.

“Supporting the striking Fairfax journalists is the very least we can do.

“If Australian parliamentarians are at all serious about the value with which they hold free speech and a free and independent media, there’s real work to be done. Journalism is not and must not be treated as a crime.

“We must protect whistleblowers and sources that provide public interest information. We must remove impediments to investigative reporting put in place by agencies like Border Force and the Federal Police.

“We must ensure adequate safeguards and oversight of these agencies is in place, and we must return to a process where law enforcement agencies need a warrant before intruding on the privacy of journalists, or doctors, or lawyers, or activists, or any other citizen.

“We must face up to the evidence from around the world, and discard the expensive and ineffective mandatory data retention scheme.

“And we must do all we can to maintain and grow a vibrant, diverse media landscape in Australia. It is nothing less than an essential cog in the machinery of democracy. We must not let it break apart,” Senator Ludlam said.

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