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Why we need a Media Freedom Act

The ABC has made the decision not to appeal the Federal Court ruling that the AFP’s warrant to conduct a raid of the ABC’s Ultimo offices was valid. It has decided it can’t litigate its way to reforming fundamentally bad laws.

This further stresses the need for a Media Freedom Act.

“The principle that needs protection here is the public’s right to know how the government, its agencies, and people in power conduct their business,” said Professor Peter Greste, spokesperson for the AJF.

“In this case there is no indication that the Afghan Files story presented a danger to national security. The story did however expose serious allegations of wrongdoing by our armed services. Information like this should not be secret and should be aired before the public. People are required to vote, so it’s logical we have a right to know what those acting in our names are doing with that responsibility.”

The AFJ believes that if the current legal system fails to allow judges to adequately protect the public interest, then the system should be updated. While reforming individual pieces of legislation will help, that won’t deal with all the loopholes.

Peter Greste said, “A Media Freedom Act would establish the principle of press freedom in law. It would filter down throughout the entire legal code, making sure that journalists and the courts have the capacity to keep the public informed, without unnecessarily exposing anything that could genuine harm national security.

“Appropriate protections and support for press freedom do not require us to limit our national security. They can work in balance with one another – they must, if we wish to have a healthy democracy.”

The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom has been calling for a Media Freedom Act since May 2019, three weeks before the AFP raids. We understood then that the legislative landscape was ripe for something like this to occur.

The Greens have recently announced plans to draft a Media Freedom Act.



Media Contacts:

Peter Wilkinson, Chair – 0414 383 433 – [email protected]

Olivia Pirie-Griffiths, Executive Director – 0400 716 181 – [email protected]

The AJF promotes media freedom worldwide and the right of journalists to report the news in freedom and safety. This includes working with Australian governments to ensure legislation supports media freedom. We also campaign in the Asia–Pacific region, wherever journalists are censored, threatened, imprisoned or killed. When journalists are silenced, democracy and human rights suffer.

Professor Peter Greste is UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication at the

University of Queensland.