Case against Dan Oakes dropped but media freedom laws must be fixed
The Commonwealth DPP’s decision to rule out charges against ABC journalist Dan Oakes is welcome but the lengthy ordeal should never have arisen in the first place, the Greens say.
Greens spokesperson for Media and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:
“This case was designed to have a chilling effect on the media by a secretive government.
“Mr Oakes’ reporting was always in the public interest and the fact it’s taken so long for the AFP and CDPP to reach this conclusion highlights our laws are broken and need fixing.
“Journalism is not a crime. We need a Media Freedom Act to ensure no journalist is treated like this ever again."
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."