Press Freedom and Whistleblowers
Policy motion considered at the NSWCCL 2019 Annual General Meeting, 23rd October 2019
NSWCCL has for many years defended the rights of a free and uncensored press to ensure the public is sufficiently informed and able to hold those in power to account.
We support the statements of Ita Buttrose at our 2019 annual dinner that there are storm clouds gathering around the ways that information is controlled. Whistleblowers who bring stories to light must not be subjected to a public show of prosecution under the guise of national security, or be censored because their story may cause embarrassment or cost to those in power.
We believe that whistleblowers are not adequately protected in Australia. Particularly in the absence of a bill or charter of rights, specific protection should be enacted.
We note just how zealously the Government has pursued whistleblowers: Witness K, Bernard Colleary and Tax Office employees to name a few.
Australia has been subject to more extensive and numerous national security legislation than any other western democracy, much of it having a chilling effect on press freedoms. The balance between the public’s right to know and Government secrecy needs to be re-set.
NSWCCL endorses the campaign started by a coalition of news organisations: Your Right to Know. It is important that the public is made aware just how serious the encroachments on press freedom are becoming in Australia. Specifically, we believe that the system of warrants and document production powers needs to be reviewed, whistleblowers must be adequately protected, laws that would put journalists in jail for doing their jobs should be wound back and the freedom of information regime needs to be updated.