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AFP should rule out charging ABC journos too

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 27 May 2020

The AFP should rule out charging ABC journalists Sam Clark and Dan Oakes following today’s welcome announcement that charges won’t be laid against journalist Annika Smethurst, the Greens say.

Greens spokesperson for Media and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said both the ABC and Smethurst cases highlighted why Australia needs a Media Freedom Act.

“AFP’s decision to rule out charging Annika Smethurst is welcome news,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The Government now needs to rule out charging the ABC journalists also raided in June 2019.

“These cases have turned into lengthy ordeals for journalists and whistleblowers. It’s clear our laws are broken and need fixing.

“We need a Media Freedom Act to ensure no journalist is treated like this ever again. Journalism is not a crime."

Senator Hanson-Young said she is pushing ahead with introducing a Media Freedom Act to the Parliament.

The Media Freedom Act that Senator Hanson-Young will introduce will:
• Ensure a contested warrants process, where law enforcement would need to apply to a judge to search a media outlet or access a journalist’s metadata;
• Protect whistleblowers by introducing a public interest defence;
• Put the onus on prosecutors to disprove public interest rather than journalists to prove it;
• Overall, enacts shield laws to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.

“A contested warrants process would mean police can’t just raid a news outlet's premises or the home of a journalist like we saw in the Smethurst and ABC raids. There would be checks and balance and consideration of what is in the public interest,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“Journalists should not be charged for doing their jobs full stop. They should not have their homes raided. They should not be intimidated or threatened. They should not be attacked by the government for reporting what is in the public interest.

"Whistleblowers who speak truth to power must be better protected, it is essential for an accountable and transparent democracy, and to protect the public's right to know."

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