There is a deep and widening gulf in trust and communications between the agencies and the media that has clearly boiled over in ways that damage both institutions.
Recommendations from a final report offer a few advances in striking the balance between national security and press freedom, but do not go nearly far enough.
The court’s decision reflects serious weaknesses in how warrants are issued and underscores the need for urgent reform.
The High Court handed down a mixed decision on the AFP raid on a News Corp journalist, highlighting just how fragile media freedom in Australia really is.
In dismissing the case, Justice Wendy Abraham drew attention to a huge gap in the protection of journalists’ sources under ‘shield laws’, which don’t apply to most search warrants.
Even if the government was willing to bend on media freedom, the mindset within the public service remains fixed on secrecy and the control of information.
As the battle over press freedom continues, the Attorney-General has ordered that any prosecution of a journalist for offences related to national security must have his approval.
While the ministerial direction represents a genuflection in the direction of press freedom, it provides nothing by way of protection for whistleblowers.
Federal home affairs minister Peter Dutton says the government’s “expectation” is that federal police should consider the importance of press freedom before investigating leaks to journalists.
The new AFP commissioner faces challenges unlike those of his predecessors, such as ensuring the independence and integrity of the police force within the Home Affairs ministry.
A parliamentary inquiry into press freedom is merely a public relations exercise designed to buy time until the public anger over last month’s police raids dies down.
The heads of News Corp, Nine and ABC talked tough on the need for stronger legal protections for journalists. But unity is meaningless unless it brings meaningful action from the government.
Media companies’ legal challenges to the legitimacy of recent AFP raids will allow the courts to clarify where the line is between national security and press freedom.
Ideally, Australia would introduce constitutional protections for media freedom. But, in the meantime, four laws need urgent reform to better balance those freedoms with national security.
Geoff Crisp speaks with Michelle Grattan about the week in politics.
What everyone should want is a healthy system of government that can serve the public interest by bringing important matters to light.
While Scott Morrison and other Liberals have been very concerned about protecting religious freedom, this week’s raids have brought unwelcome questions about media freedom.