‘Words aren’t worth much until there’s action’
Welcome back from Canberra, Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry and Senator Matthew Canavan.
Now that you've flown back to your sunny electorate after a week of parliamentary sittings, we want to talk more about press freedom.
You would have noticed major news outlets, including this masthead, ran heavily redacted front pages on Monday.
Ms Landry you spoke well on the issue this week and said the government was committed to freedom of the press and keeping Australians safe.
You said the government was listening carefully on this issue and if there was evidence that revealed a need for further improvement of those laws, the government was open to considering it.
Well that was promising to hear, but we say there is clear evidence and your words are not worth much until there is action.
The truth is, something is awfully wrong with media freedom in this country.
Public issues such as the potential misuse of personal data or national security concerns and surveillance powers seldom get reported on because of onerous laws curtailing our ability to do our jobs.
Freedom of Information requests on so many of these key issues are redacted to the point there is no information to reveal.
When journalists and news outlets do run stories of serious public interest, often putting whistleblowers at risk, they are met with heavy-handed and unjustified responses such as from the Australian Federal Police.
You need only look at the recent actions taken against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC's head offices to see how dire the situation is.
The public has a right to know what's going on.
This masthead and major news outlets across the country are calling on you to address serious shortcomings in the law that prevent us doing our jobs - because of fear of prosecution or punishment.
Among our demanded changes are:
- The right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organisations before the warrant is issued
- Law changes to ensure public sector whistleblowers are adequately protected
- A new regime that limits which documents can be marked "secret"
- A review of Freedom of Information laws
- Journalists to be exempt from national security laws enacted over the past seven years that currently can put them in jail for doing their job
- A reform of defamation laws.
This is not just a campaign about media freedom, it's about the public's right to know what governments and top organisations are up to behind the veil of secrecy.
We are letting you know today that we will not let this matter rest.