Australian newspapers black out front pages to protest media curbs


The raids were part of police investigations into leaks of secret government documents to journalists.

The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review, The Telegraph, among other presses, showed the cover unreadable and with a stamp as if there were classified documents.

The campaign, launched last night with national television advertisements, widens the public debate beyond "the right to know", by highlighting the harm to Australians if corruption and abuse are not revealed.

The newspapers with blacked out lines wrote on their front pages today: "When government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering up?"

Two ABC journalists and the News Corp reporter face a possible prison sentence for the alleged leaks, although Attorney General Christian Porter announced in late September that any legal proceedings against a journalist must first be authorized by his office.

Compared to New Zealand, the USA, the United Kingdom and Canada, Australia's intelligence and national security laws are the "most oppressive", Denis Muller from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Advancing Journalism told SBS News. The latest among them, adopted previous year, extended prison sentences for disclosing classified information.

Publishers, broadcasters and industry groups including News Corp, Nine Newspapers and Seven West Media have joined forces to demand greater protections for journalists and whistleblowers.

'Police independence and freedom of the press are both fundamental pillars that coexist in our democracy, ' he told the committee.

Australian media organisations argue that press freedoms had been eroded by higher than 70 counter-terrorism and security authorized pointers which had been passed for the reason that 9/11 attacks on the US. "It's about defending the basic right of every Australian to be properly informed about the important decisions the government is making in their name", Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks said.

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He pointed to the example of the administration holding up aid to Central American countries to force them to change their policies on immigration.

"Australia is at risk of becoming the world's most secretive democracy", David Anderson, the managing editor of Australia's ABC, said in a statement.

The next day, police raided ABC offices about another national security story two journalists had written two years earlier.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed back on the campaign.

Recent polling by the Australian Right to Know coalition found that 87% of those quizzed wished Australia to be a free, open and transparent democracy - but only 37% felt that to be the case now.

Michael Miller, executive chairman of Data Corp Australia, tweeted a image of his blacked-out mastheads - including The Australian and The Day-to-day Telegraph - and acknowledged readers must be asking: 'What are they attempting to hide from me?'

The media is now calling for legislative changes to protect whistleblowers like Boyle as well as the journalists who endeavour to tell their stories.

And more than three-quarters believe journalists should be protected from prosecution when reporting in the public interest.

Without these, Australia's media is warning that our news may as well just be censored like today's newspapers.