Submission: Press Freedom

29 August 2019

In Australia we are living in an ever-increasing state of secrecy, supported by an increasing number of national security laws, and are at risk of losing our democratic freedoms.

The key role played by whistleblowers and investigative journalists in exposing corruption and wrongdoing, is under attack, and all in the guise of national security. The national security legislative framework has the potential to encroach on journalists’ freedoms.

Recent raids on the homes and offices of media organisations, and charges laid against public sector whistleblowers, are a stark reminder that the public’s right to know is being compromised.

The ‘chilling effect’ on all reporting of wrongdoing, on which public integrity depends, is disturbing. Instead of celebrating whistleblowers and investigative journalists who expose dirty political secrets and wrongdoing, they are treated as criminals, charged, and can face lengthy jail terms.The criminalisation of journalism is a worrying trend in Australia.

Urgent legislative reform is needed to support journalists and the level of press freedom a modern representative democracy like Australia should have.

Australia needs a public sector whistleblower regime that encourages reporting and provides meaningful protection and remedy. Without these protections Australia’s integrity system, particularly at a commonwealth level, will remain flawed.