Proposed changes to espionage laws is now supported by both the Turnbull Government and the opposition.
The over-haul will make it harder for journalised to be prosecuted for publishing sensitive information, whereas the original drafting of the treason laws could have seen journalists jailed for doing their job.
Martin Turner, MEAA WA President, said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to report on matters without falling foul on the laws.
“A journalist doing particular stories will face very grave choices on whether or not they choose to take it up as an issue,” he said.
The prospect of facing a very substantial jail term is affecting how journalist do their jobs.
The proposed laws will remove requirements that reporting must be fair and accurate, needing only to be in the publics best interest.
Mr Turner believes this will diminish the quality of journalism in Australia.
“For the ordinary person they would say ‘well whats journalism anyway?’ and isn’t that a bit extreme to suggest that it has that affect, but it actually does down the line…”
“Many organisations will find it difficult to manage their public interest role with the kinds of pressures that it’s facing,” he explained.
Attorney General, Christian Porter, said published sensitive information that could impact national security would be covered by the defence of public interest.
“As a defence, public interest certainly doesn’t serve journalists. It’s a very broad definition for journalists to have to work with,” he said.
Fairness and accuracy is essential, not only in reportin, but in researching and training future journalists who are capable of crafting in depth news stories that matter to people.
Mr Turner also said we are facing such difficult times in the media in general, shrinking the ability of journalists to be able to report broadly, similar to the kind of strictures most newsrooms are under.
“They need to understand that real freedom is about the right to expression and journalism is one of the primary areas where expression can be done in a free and fair way,” he said.