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Aussie media bosses demand law changes to protect journalists from police raids

Last update: 26/06/2019
CANBERRA, June 26 (Bernama) -- Three of Australia's top media bosses have demanded greater protections for journalists following federal police raid in May, reported Xinhua news agency.

The National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday hosted executives from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), News Corp Australia and the Nine Entertainment Company which owns newspaper publisher Fairfax, in a debate about the freedom of the press.

It comes after Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers raided the home of News Corp political journalist Annika Smethurst and the headquarters of the ABC earlier in June over two separate stories based on leaks of classified information.

Following the raids, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters that he was open to a discussion on how to better protect journalists.

David Anderson, managing director of the ABC, told the NPC that while he was heartened to hear that Morrison supports a free media the current law does not reflect that ideal.

"Decriminalising journalism is a mandatory first step," he said according to an advance copy of the speech published by the ABC on Wednesday morning.

"The Criminal Code and the Defence Act both make it an offence for reporters to receive certain types of information.

"No-one deserves to be punished for doing their job and pursuing information that is clearly in the public interest."

The ABC on Monday announced that it would be taking the AFP to the Federal Court to challenge the search warrant that allowed officers to seize documents from the national broadcaster.

News Corp on Tuesday announced that it would follow suit but would pursue its case in the High Court where lawyers will argue the raid on Smethurst's home breached the right of political communication implied in the Constitution.

Michael Miller, the company's executive chairman, said on Wednesday that there was a need to "protect the public's right to know."

"We demand the right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organizations before the warrant is issued," he said.

"Public sector whistleblowers must be adequately protected and the current laws need to change."


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