SYDNEY – The heads of three major Australian media organizations on Wednesday urged the government not to criminalize journalism in the name of national security during a rare joint appearance following two recent police raids linked to the publication of certain news reports.
The managing director of public broadcaster ABC, David Anderson, the executive chairman of News Corp, Michael Miller, and Channel 9 chief executive Hugh Marks gave a press conference at the National Press Club in which they denounced the culture of secrecy that, they said, currently prevailed in Australia.
“We believe in being tough on terrorism and strong on border security; however, that does not mean we have to accept laws that make journalism an offense,” Miller said.
“The balance in the national security debate is now too weighted towards secrecy and away from the public’s right to know,” Marks said.
Anderson, meanwhile, said that “press freedom is a proxy for public freedom.”
“We all want to be reassured that our parents and grandparents are being cared for appropriately. That our banks are not ripping us off. That our elected officials are acting in our best interests,” the head of ABC added.
The joint media appearance came after two controversial police raids targeted two of the organizations earlier in the month.
The first was a search of the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, who had reported on the government’s plans to give intelligence agencies more powers to spy on Australians.
The second raid took place a day later at the ABC’s headquarters on the heels of the network’s so-called “Afghan Files” investigation into alleged abuses committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
The ABC promptly filed a lawsuit contesting the search warrant.
Miller called the raids “intimidation, not investigation,” claiming they were intended to intimidate journalists and their sources into silence.
Since 2014, Australia has passed a series of laws that seek to persecute the spread of information linked to state interests, establishing new espionage crimes and allowing the government access to citizens’ metadata.