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Smethurst High Court decision confirms need for Media Freedom Act

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 15 Apr 2020

Today’s High Court decision on the AFP raid of journalist Annika Smethurst confirms why Australia needs a Media Freedom Act, the Greens say.

Greens spokesperson for Media and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said while the High Court’s decision that the warrant was invalid is welcome, the decision did little to protect press freedoms.

“Our laws are broken and need fixing. This decision confirms the need for Greens’ Bill that protects journalists and whistleblowers and I’ll be pushing ahead with it once parliament resumes,” she said.

“Journalism is not a crime. We must enshrine media freedoms in legislation.”

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 outlets premises or the home of a journalist like we saw in this case and the raids on the ABC. 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.

“The Attorney-General should rule out charging the three ABC and News Corp journalists and the Government and Labor should back the Greens’ bill when parliament resumes, for the sake of public interest journalism and a strong democracy.”

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