Using secret police probes in a witch-hunt against journalists who reveal refugee processing abuses shows the government doesn’t believe in a free press, and doesn’t want informed citizens.
Govt tries to repress journalists
Let’s put this very simply, so that ministers, minders and public servants understand:
- It is the journalist’s duty to find out and report on what the government is trying to hide from the Australian people.
- It is not the duty of anyone in government to persecute journalists doing their jobs well, who are keeping the Australian people more informed than secretive government ministers, department heads and agencies want them to be.
- It is particularly odious for anyone in government to use, and abuse, the officers of the federal police and ASIO to persecute journalists doing their job.
- Among other things, the government should consider its own advice: police and ASIO have much more important work to do chasing terrorists than chasing journalists whose only sin is that they want an open, informed, democratic society.
– Bill Rowlings, CEO, Civil Liberties Australia 22 January 2015
The above comments by CLA relate to the Abbott government’s trying to use secret police investigations to intimidate journalists and hide what should be public knowledge.
Journalists reporting on asylum-seeker policies have been repeatedly referred secretly to the federal police in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers, a Guardian Australia investigation has revealed.
In 2013 and 2014, federal government agencies referred stories by journalists from Guardian Australia, news.com.au and the West Australian to the Australian Federal Police during the time Scott Morrison was immigration minister.
Since the Coalition took office in September 2013, at least eight referrals were sent to the police on asylum seeker stories: active police investigations continue.
West Australian journalist Nick Butterly was referred twice – once in February 2014 for a story about people smugglers struggling to fill boats and once in May 2014 for a report on an intercepted asylum seeker vessel – by the head of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Services, Michael Pezzullo.
On review of the article, it appears that several of the claims may have drawn upon classified information. This suspected disclosure of this classified information relates specifically to operational and assessment activity that is not available through open sources or authorised media releases,” Pezzullo wrote in one letter sent in February 2014, obtained by Guardian Australia.
By any measure, Pezzullo is a compromised complainant, because of his appalling personal attitude towards journalists.
It is frightening that this man is to head a new uniformed force, carrying guns, that will become another arm of repression for any government so minded. Pezzullo is simply so rabid towards journalists – using words like “bottom feeders” and not “doing a real job” – that he should be declared a vexatious complainant, and ignored by the AFP and anyone else he complains to, CLA says.