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Crimes Amendments Threaten Public Disclosure ...

Crimes Amendments Threaten Public Disclosure ... And Journalists

SYDNEY (MEAA): Amendments to Australia's Federal Criminal Code threaten to impose greater restrictions on journalists and public servants who leak information.

Under the Criminal Code Amendment [Espionage and Related Offences] Bill 2001, it will be an offence to communicate "an official record of information or official information" to "a person to whom he or she is not authorised to communicate it or make it available."

The bill can be found under its title at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/index.htm

The government has claimed that the legislation is only directed at matters of security and defence. The press releases from the government can be found at the Attorney-General's page at http://www.ag.gov.au/aghome/agnews/2002newsag/2002newsag.html

But Division 82.3 of the bill make it an offence to communicate any official information, while Division 82.4 makes it an office to receive an unauthorised communication. This means the bill threatens both a whistleblower and a journalist who receives a leak.

In introducing the legislation last September, the Government claimed it was responding to the inquiry into the Commonwealth Crimes Act chaired by Sir Harry Gibbs in 1991.

However, the bill does not pick up the key recommendation of that inquiry to delete the existing catch-all provision against revealing official information in Section 70 of the Crimes Act and replace it with more targeted provisions.

The Alliance urges all of its members to register their disapproval at these proposed legislative changes by contacting the Attorney-General, Mr Darryl Williams at the following address or raising the matter with their local MP.

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org


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