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Indybay Feature
Australian police powers risking the criminalisation of public interest journalism
by GetUp!
Wednesday Jun 5th, 2019 5:40 AM
This is unprecedented.

As I write, the Australian Federal Police are crawling through the headquarters of our national broadcaster. Accessing private emails. Scouring hard-drives. Rounding up handwritten notes. They have the power to collect, decrypt, alter and delete whatever they want.1

Why? Because the ABC dared to report on allegations that Australian soldiers unlawfully killed children in Afghanistan.2
This raid is not an isolated incident – it's the latest in an an escalating trend. The AFP have already raided another journalist this week – spending over eight hours in her home – because she reported on government plans to spy on citizens using military technology.3

We don't know what they're digging for, but the message to journalists is clear: sit down, and shut up.

But right now, the entire nation is watching. In just the past hour, the stories under investigation have been read over 15,000 times.4

And while all eyes are on these show trials, we have an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to the cowards in Parliament who, for years, have gambled with press freedom to hide themselves from scrutiny.

✍Sign the petition calling for a Media Freedom Act to ensure the powerful are held to account. Journalists MUST NOT be intimidated for doing their jobs!

This has been coming for some time. For years, both sides of Parliament have recklessly expanded state powers in a way that experts warned risked the criminalisation of public interest journalism.5

And the result? Australia has tumbled down the World Press Freedom rankings in the last decade. And just this year, we were slammed for "draconian legislation" that threatened the work of independent investigative reporters and whistleblowers.6

It's a disgrace, but the unprecedented outcry in response to these unprecedented raids is powerful. This is our chance to stop the rot undermining public interest journalism: join the campaign for a Media Freedom Act!

Because when soldiers are accused of unlawfully killing civilians,7 the public has a right to know.

When our politicians spy on other nations to advance the interests of the fossil fuel industry,8 the public has a right to know.

When massive corporations try to intimidate journalists out of holding them to account,9 the public has a right to know.

And we will fight for that right.

Add your voice to the call: citizens stand with journalists – we need a Media Freedom Act!

Yours in defiance,
Ruby, for the GetUp team

1. First page of AFP warrant, via ABC journalist John Lyons on Twitter
2.The Afghan Files, ABC, July 11, 2017
3. Spying shock: Shades of Big Brother as cyber-security vision comes to light, The Daily Telegraph, April 29 2019
4. ABC Digital Lead, Scott Mitchell, via Twitter
5. Espionage laws overreach, The Monthly, June 5, 2018
6. Australia falls in World Press Freedom Index, with report citing PM, media mergers and 'draconian' laws, Mumbrella, April 20, 2019
7. The Afghan Files, ABC, July 11, 2017
8. Australia urged to drop Witness K prosecution due to 'chilling effect' on democracy, The Guardian, July 24, 2018
9. ABC journalists call on news chief to explain why Adani story was pulled, June 4, 2019
GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations.

Our team acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work. We wish to pay respect to Elders - past, present and emerging - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.

Authorised by Paul Oosting, GetUp Ltd, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.
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