Govt tells AFP to consider press freedoms

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has ordered the Australian Federal Police to consider the importance of press freedom before investigating journalists who publish classified material.

“A key function of the AFP is the enforcement of the criminal law, without exception,” he said.

“However, I expect the AFP to take into account the importance of a free and open press in Australia’s democratic society and to consider broader public interest implications before undertaking investigative action involving a professional journalist or news media organisation in relation to an unauthorised disclosure of material made or obtained by a current or former Commonwealth officer.

“I also expect the AFP to continue to seek voluntary assistance from professional journalists or news media organisations,” he said.

His comments follow recent raids on ABC and News Corp journalists, and come ahead of an inquiry into press freedoms.

But Shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said in a statement, “Mr Dutton waited until 4pm on a Friday afternoon — just days before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s public hearings into press freedoms — to announce his ‘Ministerial Direction on Investigative Action Involving Journalists.’

“This is a cowardly act. Mr Dutton has announced what he ‘expects’ of the AFP.

“Australians, including journalists, media executives and the public, have demanded guarantees from the Government and all Mr Dutton has given them is window dressing.

“This pithy effort and even more pitiful timing from Mr Dutton is disrespectful to every hard-working journalist in Australia and epitomises what the Home Affairs Minister thinks of them, the media, and the Australian public.”

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance president Marcus Strom told News Corp, “While we welcome the fact that he’s moving his position a bit on this, we don’t think it’s enough because this is still left to the whim of a ministerial directive.

“We and our partners in the Right to Know coalition are calling for legislative protections for journalists and whistleblowers.

“We also feel like this is trying to pre-empt the inquiry ongoing in parliament.”

Source: ABC

2 Comments:

  1. Support for Julian Assange is sadly missing from our government and media – we should be supporting one of our own who was part of blowing the whistle on the USA. If he ends up being extradited to the USA, he would most likely end up like Jeffrey Epstein (conveniently a “suicide” – and not one person in the world believes that).

  2. It’s noticeable that the media uses FOI to acquire political documents that may suit an ongoing news agenda, the ABC have recently been quite effective at doing this when opportunity arises, the fact that the media can legally get FOI information that is possibly damaging to the government does allow opportunity to demand some political accountability. When it comes to illegally acquiring political documents then the lines of saying it is public interest becomes blurred and those using it become as equally guilty as the whistle blower by publishing it. The need to moderate official secrets acts hiding politically sensitive topics is a long and arduous one for obvious reasons, especially in regards to protecting bureaucratic accountability, it’s really up to the public to voice their protest and the media to publish public concern if there is something malignant growing in Canberra.

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