Concern for Media Freedom in Australia Following Police Raids

06 June 2019

Earlier this week Australia’s Federal Police raided the offices of ABC news and the homes of a number of journalists over articles published in 2017 and 2018 related to Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, and proposals to expand Australia’s domestic surveillance capabilities.

Australian Human Rights Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher and Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow called the raids deeply disturbing, as the journalists involved were reporting on important issues that go to the heart of Australia’s liberal democracy.

David Isaac, Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said

The unprecedented raid on ABC news journalists by the Australian Federal Police is highly concerning. Around the world, media freedoms are being eroded and many journalists are increasingly faced with intimidation and threats of violence. An independent media is a fundamental pillar of a healthy democracy. When we threaten the freedom of the media we threaten democracy itself

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Parliament has, over the years, dramatically increased the power of Australia’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access the private communications of its citizens. One example of the expansion of these coercive powers and criminal laws was the passing of the highly contentious 2018 ‘encryption bill’.

Speaking of the bill, President Croucher said

Australia is unusual among liberal democratic countries in missing key checks and balances, such as a national human rights act or charter, to stop such national security laws from over-reaching.

National security may sometimes be a legitimate ground for intruding upon rights, but overreach in the name of national security is not.

For more information on this story visit the Australia Human Rights Commission’s website.

Why is Media Freedom Important?

A free and independent media contributes to freedom of expression and accountability to the rule of law, promotes transparency and participation in public and political discourse, and contributes to the enjoyment of universal human rights.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

However, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, 78% of the world’s countries score below satisfactory for press freedom and there is a concerning rise globally in hostility toward journalists that has degenerated into violence.

Read the Report

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