Press freedom report calls for reform and transparency

A parliamentary inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press

has recommended measures to improve public interest protections and transparency, with a report tabled today.

Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Andrew Hastie, said the Committee acknowledges the role of a free press, and that the investigation or prosecution of journalists and media organisations can affect the perception of the freedom of the press in Australia.

‘Our report recommends that the role of Australia’s Public Interest Advocates be expanded to consider a broader range of warrant applications that may affect journalists and media organisations in instances of unauthorised disclosure of information,’ Mr Hastie said.

The report also includes recommendations for additional transparency in warrant applications, and recommendations related to the Public Interest Disclosure scheme which allows public officials who suspect wrongdoing to report their concerns. These reforms are aimed at ensuring that appropriate avenues exist for Commonwealth officials to raise their concerns before it is necessary to approach external parties.

‘The issues related to law enforcement, intelligence powers and press freedoms are complex, and this inquiry has allowed the Committee to examine a range of matters in great detail,’ Mr Hastie said.

‘This is an evolving area of law, and the Committee welcomes recent steps taken by Government to bolster the decision-making process when journalists and media organisations are involved in the investigation and prosecution of unauthorised disclosure of information.’

The report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

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