'It has been a confronting week for whistleblowers, journalists and democracy.
It began on last Monday when ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle and his wife Louise Beaston spoke out about the toll on his life since being raided by the Australian Federal Police then charged with 66 offences equivalent to a 161 year prison sentence if found guilty.
What followed next was a series of AFP raids on two media outlets, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC, using the fig leaf of protecting our national security.
It caused an outcry around the world as our poor protection of sources and whistleblowers was finally exposed.
“This could not happen in other advanced democracies, which all have constitutional protections for journalists and their sources of information, although of course it does go on in Istanbul and Rangoon – and now in Sydney. How did we become so out of sync on press freedom, invasions of which are the sign of a second-rate country?’ Geoffrey Robertson QC wrote in an opinion piece for the Herald and The Age.
Robertson called on parliament to make amendments requiring police to obtain the DPP’s approval and to make an application to a judge which the media can contest before any action is taken.
It sounds reasonable enough but the silence from the Morrison government has been deafening.
The state of whistleblower protections and press freedom in this country, including archaic defamation laws, restrictive Freedom of Information laws and little protection for sources, means it feels like we are operating in the dark.
Whistleblowers still speak up despite all this. But the events of the past week, and what has happened to a string of other whistleblowers over many years, is undoubtedly designed to stop fresh insiders from speaking out. From a democracy point of view its is chilling.'
Read more: Australia's treatment of whistleblowers has strong echoes of Orwell
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