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RSF: Whistleblowers could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment

AUSTRALIA: Whistleblowers could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, warns RSF

July 24, 2014

PARIS: (Reporters Without Borders / Pacific Media Watch): Reporters Without Borders has warned that a proposed amendment to national security laws designed to clamp down on Edward Snowden-style whistleblowers could see Australian journalists being jailed for up to 10 years.

The proposed new National Security Legislation Amendment Bill invokes the "national interest" in seeking a total ban on publishing any information about the operations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Under the proposed new law, journalists and media outlets who publish ASIO information face up to 10 years in prison.

Reporters Without Borders says that human rights violations could thus easily be covered up by the ASIO.

Benjamin Ismaïl, head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk said:
“This bill is dangerously imprecise and does not take account of the public interest in any shape or form, and as such it is a threat to freedom of information and a violation of international standards”.

“Whistleblowers should not be subject to threats of this kind when they are carrying out the important task of disseminating news and information on behalf of their fellow citizens.

“We call on the attorney-general to scrap this bill, which is far too restrictive to be amended appropriately.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, the proposed new law aims to "avoid the emergence of an Australian Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who published transcripts of wiretaps by the National Security Agency".

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had previously aired a story based on Snowden's documents which showed that Australian intelligence had tapped the phones of Indonesian leaders, including that of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. This raised the ire of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has said that “news that endangers the security of our country frankly shouldn’t be fit to print”.

Criminal law barrister Greg Barns told The Guardian newspaper that the amendments were "unprecedented" and could see the prosecution and jailings of journalists from news outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian, Wikileaks and any of the other outlets which currently reported on intelligence documents and operations.


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