Thursday, January 22, 2015

No press freedom in Australia

One of the distinguishing features of dictatorships is their conflation of "national security" and "treason" with "embarrassing the government" or "showing them to be liars". This has unpleasant consequences for journalism and freedom of the press. Unfortunately, on this scale, Australia seems to be behaving like a dictatorship:

Journalists reporting on the federal government’s asylum-seeker policies have been repeatedly referred to the police in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers, a Guardian Australia investigation can reveal.

Over the past 12 months federal government agencies have referred stories by journalists from Guardian Australia, and the West Australian to the Australian federal police (AFP) for their reporting on the government’s asylum seeker operations during the time Scott Morrison was immigration minister.

Almost every referral made to the AFP by federal government agencies “for unauthorised disclosure of commonwealth information” since the Coalition took office in September 2013 has been directly related to immigration reporting by journalists.

And all of it has been information which embarrasses the government and shows that they have systematically sought to deceive the public about what they are doing. Invading Indonesia. Committing kidnapping and piracy on the high seas. Sinking refugee boats after evacuating them. None of these revelations threaten Australia's "national security". Instead, it exposes government deceit and wrongdoing. And it speaks volumes that a supposed democracy would investigate journalists and seek to put them in jail for that.