Aussie media self-censors to protest govt, secrecy laws

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said people "should always be suspicious of governments that want to restrict their right to know what's going on".

ABC managing director David Anderson acknowledged: 'Australia is in misfortune of becoming the enviornment's most secretive democracy'.

The protest was created to put public pressure on the government to exempt journalists from laws restricting access to sensitive information, enact a properly functioning freedom of information system, and raise the benchmark for defamation lawsuits.

"A number of our journalist members have told me since the police raids earlier this year that they've lost sources, that they've lost stories because [sources] clearly see the nature of those raids as being government agencies sending a message", he said.

Among the demanded changes are reforms to the Public Interest Disclosures Act to afford public servants greater protections, including expanding the public's interest test that now holds bias against external disclosure, a presumption of criminal liability against media for using the information and the government's ability to identify sources via journalists' communications and metadata.

Michael Miller, executive chairman of Data Corp Australia, tweeted a image of his blacked-out mastheads - including The Australian and The Day-to-day Telegraph - and acknowledged readers must be asking: 'What are they attempting to hide from me?'

The campaign is accompanied by research that reveals 87% of Australians value a free and transparent democracy in which the public is well-informed, yet only 37% believe Australia is meeting that standard.

In June, the government raided the home of a News Corporation journalist and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation HQ.

Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks said the new campaign was "much bigger than the media" because it was about the right of all Australians to know about decisions made in their name.

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The media is now calling for legislative changes to protect whistleblowers like Boyle as well as the journalists who endeavour to tell their stories.

Australia's leading media organisations are coming together to defend the growing threat to the nation's right to know about information that impacts their lives.

Reece Kershaw wants to examine processes around unauthorised disclosures, parliamentary privilege, espionage, foreign interference and war crimes.

The new head of the Australian Federal Police has launched a 100-day review to ensure the force is "fit for purpose".

'But rather a holistic approach to ensure that we have in place investigate policies and guidelines that are fit for goal'.

But without a constitutional protection for freedom of speech in Australia, top editors have grown increasingly concerned that authorities could abuse expansive national security legislation to suppress uncomfortable revelations or pressure media outlets.

'I strongly believe in these two pillars, and this is the approach I intend to take'.

"It's unprecedented to see the front page of every single newspaper pointing out the same issue we are challenged with having to deal with, but this is serious".

  • Sonia Alvarado