Yesterdays major newspapers in Australia all had the same front page. When I first saw them all together at the newsagent I had to have a double-take because I have never seen that before. As I took a closer look and realised it was a campaign railing against government censorship that was obviously being carried by all the major news outlets, I just had to buy one.
For a bit of historical context - Back in June 2019 there were a couple of very high profile raids on journalists by the Australian Federal Police. They were apparently unrelated as both search warrants related to separate stories and allegations of publishing classified material – illegal under the Crimes Act 1914. One story was about the Afghan War and the other was about the government potentially giving spy agencies greater surveillance powers. A couple of red flags there if you are concerned about living under fascism in Australia and a lot of journalists (and citizens) became quite concerned about what this meant for Press Freedom in this country.
This latest campaign looks like an attempt by the major Australian media outlets to fight back and push for greater Press Freedoms in this country. Here is a snippet from the article that rolls it up into a nutshell nicely :-
"…law reforms are being sought, which include allowing news organisations to contest the application for warrants to raid journalists’ homes and offices, as well as exemptions from laws for reporters that would put them in jail for doing their jobs."
Hallelujah! It is very encouraging to see corporate competitors joining forces to protect their independence against increasingly authoritarian government policy. This campaign comes on the back of another news piece from the day before which I think is also related and perhaps shows a bit of groundswell opposition to the authoritarian creep we are seeing not just in this country but around the world.
Another snippet from The Daily Telegraph that summarises this 2nd story better than I could :-
"A group of 10 MPs from across the political spectrum have joined forces to form a Parliamentary Working Group to bring home Wikileaks founder Julian Assange"
Yes, I know – another “Working Group” organised by politicians doesn’t seem like much but I have long dismayed the lack of push by Australians to bring Julian Assange home and save him from persecution. If ever there was going to be a rallying cry for Press Freedom in the modern world, the Julian Assange case would have to be it and at least now the conversation is seeing some light in Australia. It’s better late than never, I just hope that it isn’t going to be too late for Julian because his time appears to be running out.
One interesting point to note is that one of the co-chairs of the Working Group is George Christensen. I don’t know much about this guy other than he is with the National Party in Queensland, and I hadn’t even heard about him until recently but he did ALSO show up on my radar as being one of the key voices from within the government rallying opposition against the proposed Cash Ban. I did write about this recently in my piece Australias Cash Ban : Rising Authoritarianism in the Land of Plenty so this guy is getting two ticks for being anti-authoritarian and he might be an interesting one to have on the radar.
To me, the issue of Press Freedom is not a Left vs Right thing. This is a Civil Liberty vs Authoritarian thing and while we see a lot of division in this country (and indeed the world) between Left vs Right, I think most Australians would comfortably fall on the side of Civil Liberties against Authoritarianism. Hopefully we can win this new fight for Press Freedoms in this country and become a great example for the world to follow.