Australia´s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has slammed the governments new National Security Legislation Amendment in a widely distributed pamphlet as an “outrageous attack on press freedom in Australia.”
The day after the Australian Senate voted 44 votes to 12 to pass a controversial new National Security Bill the countries major body for the protection of the rights of Journalists has distributed a “Press Freedom Alert” advocating a campaign to protect press freedom. In a major statement given by MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren he stated, “The Bill criminalises legitimate journalist reporting of matters in the public interest. It overturns the public’s right to know. It persecutes and prosecutes whistleblowers and journalists who are dealing with whistleblowers. It imposes ludicrous penalties of up to 10 years jail on journalists. It imposes outrageous surveillance on journalists and the computer networks of their media employers. It treats every Australian as a threat and denies their rights of access to information and freedom of expression.”
The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 received bipartisan support from the Labor Party thursday evening and has two significant dimensions.
It will give Australia’s national security intelligence service (ASIO) the ability monitor the Internet in its entirety through the limitless access to all computers within a network whilst monitoring/surveillance activities via the one warrant. It will also introduce up to 10 year jail sentences for anyone including journalist, bloggers and whistleblowers that disclose classified information that relates to special intelligence operations. Operations of which can be deemed as “special” by any authorised ASIO officer.
Fear Breeds Approval
The new Bill has come in the wake of a terror threat level in Australia that had been raised to high for the first time since the system was created 11 years ago and the shooting of an alienated and ISIS supporting youth that stabbed two Melbourne Police officers during questioning.
There is a persuasive fear among the Australian community about terror threat levels that is encouraged via constant pronouncements from government and media. However the incumbent government led by Tony Abbott is now after long periods of poor popularity rising in popularity ratings. The Prime Minister has achieved a 6 point bounce back in his Net Satisfaction rating after several weeks dominated by discussion on terrorism.
Balance of Freedoms.
Talking in Parliament monday Tony Abbott stated “Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we would like,” and “Regrettably for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.
However, many disagree with the notion that long fought for freedoms should be given up when the preservation of such freedoms is so fundamental to Australian culture and way of life.
In the Press Freedom Alert distributed by the Australian media, entertainment and arts alliance Warren stated that “The parliament has now passed legislation that hands extraordinary powers to the government and its spy agencies while conveniently preventing legitimate scrutiny of those powers. At a time when the parliament should be defending and promoting freedoms in our society it has instead chosen to strip them away”
Reference to Edward Snowden.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported friday that Attorney-General George Brandis said that “the new bills did not target journalists specifically, despite concerns from media organisations that they would be targets. The new legislation instead targeted those who leaked classified information, such as the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden”.
The media alliance disagrees and rolled out a short technical explanation of the shortcomings of the bill. According to them the “Explanatory Memorandum makes it clear that the offences outlined in section 35P would apply to “disclosures by any person” and “persons who are recipients of unauthorised disclosure of information, should they engage in any subsequent disclosure”. This would capture legitimate reporting by journalists and media organisations of activities in the public interest. For example, this legislation would have made illegal the legitimate reporting of Edward Snowden’s revelation about the phone‐tapping of the wife of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Edward Snowden is a former United States Intelligence worker who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA), starting in June 2013 and now is located in Russia under political asylum.