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On The Whistle-Blowers…

A few leading frontline broadsheets at stalls were seen there… however, most of their front-page news stories were blacked out! Also, there was a Government Seal (not original, though) seen on the top of each and every paper, with four words: “Secret, not for release.” Even, advertisements were rolled out across the Australian Television Networks, asking viewers to consider the question: “When the Government hides the truth from you, what are they covering up?” Yes, the people in Australia witnessed such a rare show of unity in a fractious media landscape on October 21!

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Federal Police raids on the National Broadcaster ABC, and a News Corporation journalist’s residence earlier this year over two stories triggered a campaign by the ‘Right to Know’ coalition, embarrassing the Aussie Government… Monday’s protest was a part of that campaign. The Australian News Agencies’ protest centred on six demands: exemptions for journalists from strict national security laws; safety and security of whistle-blowers; control over Government-privacy; reform of the ‘Right to Information Act’; reform of the ‘Defamation Law’; and the Right to Oppose a Police Search Warrant! The Australian journalists consider the National Security Laws as the most dangerous ones, as they have created a complex web of provisions! According to critics, these laws ensnare reporters doing their jobs too easily!
Paul Murphy, the Head of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Union, explained: “The culture of secrecy that has descended through these legal provisions restricts every Australian’s right to know and goes well beyond the original intent of national security.” He said: “The Police raids on the home of News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst, and the Headquarters of the ABC in Sydney were direct attacks on media freedom in Australia, but they are just the tip of the iceberg!

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Annika’s only fault has been that she had reported that the Government was considering plans to spy on Australians! Meanwhile, the two ABC reporters had exposed alleged war crimes committed by the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan! Soon after the publication of these reports, the Government used the Police to ‘harass‘ the journalists. The Police had reportedly asked journalists to reveal the names of those Government officials who leaked such pieces of information. Many of them have been severely punished for leaking the news to the press! That is why the journalists have demanded protection of the whistle-blowers…
In the past, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had backed search operations in journalists’ residences and media houses, saying: “The Rule of Law has to be applied evenly and fairly in protection of our broader freedoms, and so I don’t think anyone is, I hope, looking for a leave pass on any of those things.” And on Monday, the PM stressed that his Government would “always believe in the freedom of the press… but, journalists were not above the law”.

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It, seemingly, has become a global tendency to launch attacks on the media whenever the Governments try to hide their mistakes…

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