Australia’s national broadcaster and two biggest newspaper publishers called on the government on Wednesday to protect press freedom, declaring media laws outdated, inconsistent and used by the powerful to keep embarrassing information secret.
The state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), News Corp’s Australian arm, and broadcaster and newspaper publisher Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd made the demand after a series of police raids, adverse court rulings and criminal prosecutions of journalists.
The rare show of unity by Australia’s usually tribal media industry underscored concern about a lack of legal protection for journalists. The issue grabbed international attention earlier this month when police raided the ABC’s head office in Sydney and a News Corp editor’s home over separate reports.
“Something has shifted,” said Michael Miller, News Corp executive chairman for Australia and New Zealand.
“The raids … were intimidation, not investigation,” he said in a joint speech by the media bosses in Canberra.
ABC managing director David Anderson said government rhetoric about the importance of a free press was “not being matched by the reality”.
“Our journalists have too many impediments in their path including the unacceptable risk of being treated as criminals,” Anderson said.
He said the raid on the ABC office was based on a World War One-era Crimes Act.
The ABC and News Corp plan to challenge the legality of the raids, although Miller said that would not address concerns about how warrants for the raids were issued.