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An opinion on the governments prosecution of whistleblowers

Messenger Fear is a tricky thing. US President Donald Trump, being more comfortable with autocrats than democratic leaders, is arguably a real danger to the world order.

But a former Australian spook blowing the whistle on our spy agencies eavesdropping on an impoverished neighbour to gain advantage in a business deal?

Embarrassing for the government, absolutely. But dangerous to national security? Not a good look, to put it mildly.

  • Snowden believes he did the right thing, and an awful lot of people—in this country and around the world—agree that it was vital to expose the mass surveillance and invasion of privacy the NSA was committing behind the backs of most of Congress and the American public;
  • At the least, pardoning Snowden would signal that protecting whistleblowers in the intelligence community is critical to a democracy;
  • It would underscore the need for real protections and real reforms, and it would bring him safely home;
  • It would broadcast to the rest of the world that that the U.

It used to be that when governments were caught spying, they denied the allegations then wore the embarrassment in the public eye. Not anymore in Australia. Chilling effect of security laws This is the continuation of a pattern that started with the terror attacks on the US on Sept. In our recently published bookI and a number of colleagues document and track the impact that anti-terror and national security laws have had on in-depth public interest journalism in Australia and a number of other countries.

Obama’s war on whistleblowers

We conclude it has become much harder for journalists to hold governments to account for what is being done in the name of security. Australia is a potent case in point.

Since 2001, 64 new or amended national security and anti-terror laws have been passed. Meta-data retention laws for internet service providers and telecommunication companies have made it very hard for journalists to protect confidential sources. The new espionage and foreign interference law that just passed in parliament makes it a potential crime for journalists to receive, read and store confidential, security-related documents.

  1. A government that hunts down whistleblowers is on the slippery slope towards a police state in which press freedom will be under increasing pressure. Meta-data retention laws for internet service providers and telecommunication companies have made it very hard for journalists to protect confidential sources.
  2. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.
  3. Snowden has not taken up the invitation to return to the U.
  4. We welcome outside contributions.
  5. And despite various unfounded allegations , there is no evidence he gave the Russians any secrets. Whistleblowers who disclose information about conditions in the refugee centres or operations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are now exposed to the possibility of imprisonment.

Data retention plan amended for journalists, but is it enough? The Turnbull government had the choice not to charge Witness K.

Chelsea Manning Commutation Doesn’t Erase Obama’s Awful Whistleblower Legacy

Another high-profile whistleblower and current independent member of parliament, Andrew Wilkie, did not mince words when he labelled the prosecution of Witness K a disgrace and said K should be given the Order of Australia for disclosing the Australian bullying of Timor-Leste. New bill would make Australia worst in the free world for criminalising journalism Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessment in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war to warn the Australian public there was no case for war.

We now know that not only was he right, but the Iraq conflict, led by the Coalition of the Willing of which Australia was a member, was the greatest foreign policy blunder since the second world war.

Surprisingly, Australia had improved six places from 25th in 2016 to 19th in 2017. But the general comment about Australia in the index should not give the government reason to celebrate: Whistleblowers who disclose information about conditions in the refugee centres or operations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are now exposed to the possibility of imprisonment.

A government that hunts down whistleblowers is on the slippery slope towards a police state in which press freedom will be under increasing pressure. Shooting the messenger is a tool used by autocrats and is not worthy of a mature liberal democracy.

It will be interesting to see what ranking Australia gets in the 2018 Press Freedom Index.