WA only state that won’t protect press freedom
Media release, Thursday 18 November 2010
Greens Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam has called on WA Attorney General Christian Porter to support shield laws to protect journalists and whistle-blowers.
“Effective shield laws for journalists and public service whistle-blowers act as an encouragement to vigilance and integrity,” said Senator Ludlam. “If journalists can not protect their sources, we will not have people coming forward to expose wrong-doing and abuses of power.”
The Senate held a brief inquiry this afternoon to examine the shield laws bill which has in-principle support from all sides of politics, including the Liberal Shadow Attorney General.
“Mr Porter is the only attorney general in Australia to declare his opposition to this much-needed reform.”
“Legislation in most democratic countries provides for a rebuttable presumption of journalists’ privilege. The United Kingdom, New Zealand and most US states provide legal protection for journalists’ sources,” Senator Ludlam said. “There is no argument against shield laws. I will be writing to the West Australian Attorney General to urge him to support this legislation.”
Senator Ludlam said the case of West Australian journalist Sean Cowan being threatened with a contempt charge over interview recordings, as well as the 2008 police raid on the Sunday Times after a report on State Government advertising by reporter Paul Lampathakis, illustrated the need for shield laws in Western Australia.
“We do not want to see whistleblowers intimidated into keeping silent, and we do not want to see police raids when a Government is embarrassed by a news story,” he said. “Shield laws would enable journalists to protect anonymous sources who have brought to light matters in the public interest.”
Senator Ludlam said the legislation will not protect spurious reports.
“It will protect journalists acting in the public interest. This law will contribute to an atmosphere conducive to accountability and integrity in our public and private institutions,” he said.
Media Contact – Giovanni Torre