The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom has released a white paper that provides seven recommendations for legislative change to strengthen press freedom in Australia.
The recommendations include a framework underpinned by a Media Freedom Act that balances press freedom and national security interests, protecting journalists engaged in their work from unwarranted prosecution or civil liability.
Each of the white paper’s recommendations are designed to support journalistic investigation, research and reporting by ensuring transparency and accountability – a cornerstone of democracy.
- Positive media freedom: Introduce a Media Freedom Act that positively enshrines the principle of freedom of the press.
- National Security: Address press freedom concerns in national security legislation by putting in place an appropriate balance in national security legislation between the imperatives of public accountability of government, and operational secrecy for national security agencies. That balance should recognise the fundamental importance of national security and the protection of certain Commonwealth activities and the identities of certain Commonwealth employees, whilst providing a basis for journalists to investigate and report on government misconduct.
- Confidentiality: Protect journalists’ confidential data where that data is gathered and held for legitimate journalistic work. Where confidential data is accessed due to national security concerns, the basis for doing so must be able to be objectively tested.
- Shield Laws: Enhance and harmonise the shield laws available under State, Territory and Commonwealth Evidence Acts to cover legitimate journalistic work in a uniform way.
- Whistleblowers: Enhance whistleblower protections
- Defamation and the Public Interest: Introduce a succinct and clearly set-out public interest defence to claims of defamation.
- Transparency around Suppression Orders: Establish greater transparency in the issuing and recording of suppression orders.