Press Freedom; What Press Freedom & ASIO Act Section 35P?

I was inspired by this week’s Media Watch show to provide an update- https://twitter.com/ABCmediawatch

To highlight this brutal attack on press freedom

In Australia, there is an established Secret Intelligence Operation (SIO) scheme, which provides protections under the Australian Security Intelligence Oganisation (ASIO), to officers and affiliates.

The SIO status is granted under section 35P of the ASIO Act by either- ASIO’s Director-General of Security or  the Deputy Director-General. The new provision found under section 35P of the ASIO Act, now affords SIO civil and criminal immunity. [1]

Furthermore, SIO officers are exempt of any liability when they engage in otherwise unlawful conduct; during an operation of a SIO. The Act contains two offences provided in section 35P- for an unauthorised disclosure of information in a SIO, [2] the sole purpose is to – ‘protect persons participating in a SIO and to ensure the integrity of ASIO’s covert operations’.[3]

This has serious consequences and most of the media are opposed to the encroachment of section 35 P.[4] Under section 35P it is a crime for the media or any other person to uncover illegal or corrupt conduct about any SIO.

Anyone who reports on a SIO and places an officer in a position where they are endangered will now attract a penalty- of 10 years in jail.[5]

Recommended reforms have been suggested by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ­Intelligence and Security. These proposals consist of 18 reform recommendations and include- 44 separate items covering three broad areas.

Executive Government Departments are in effect of the new law completely unaccountable.

It will be impossible to expose any hidden corruption with these proposals to press freedoms, when the reporting may ‘prejudice’ the effective conduct of a SIO.

[6] Yet, ASIO can tell who is talking to who and what websites they visit.[7]These constraints on the media, are a threat to the freedom of democracy afforded to all Australians and inhibit press freedom.

 

1.) George Brandis attempts to reassure reporters- by undermining journalismhttp://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/04/george-brandis-attempts-to-reassure-reporters-by-undermining-journalism4
2.) Prof Mark Pearson— JournLaw.com, 20th July, 2014

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1436_journlaw.pdf

3.)Terror on the books

Dr Mark Pearsonjournalists and anti-terror legislationPress Freedomhttp://www.walkleys.com/terror-books/

4.) Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979-http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/asioa1979472/-

5.) Spy laws passed in Senate, ASIO given more powers-http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/spy-laws-passed-in-senate-asio-given-new-powers/story-fnjwmwrh-1227071116071

6.) http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/lawcouncil/index.php/10-divisions/146-australian-security-intelligence-organisation-asio and see fact sheet on section 35P-http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/lawcouncil/images/2015_02_23_Section_35P_factsheet_web.pdf

[1] The immunity does not cover death or serious injury, torture, conduct that causes significant loss of, or serious damage to property, or that induces another person to commit an act that he or she would not otherwise have done- please see-http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/intelligence-operations-are-not-above-the-law/story-fni0cwl5-1227136080149

[2]S 35P provides- Unauthorised disclosure of information (1)  A person commits an offence (a)  the person discloses information (b)  the information relates to a special intelligence operation:Penalty:  Imprisonment for 5 years.

[3] Law Council Section 35P

[4]  On September 29, 2014-the News Ltd flagship The Australian published an editorial under the title “Homegrown terror threat needs new tools to fight it”. Citing the Numan Haider incident as evidence that “it is now beyond doubt that authorities are acting on very real threats to Australians”, the editorial stated, “The new counter-terrorism laws are not an attack on free speech; they are a protection against an evolving threat.”- http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-24/bradley-murdochs-belated-stand-for-press-freedom/5839584

[5] Section 35P provides-  Unauthorised disclosure of information–endangering safety, etc (2)  A person commits an offence ;(a)  the person discloses information; and (b)  the information relates to a special intelligence operation; and(c)  either-(i)  the person intends to endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of a special intelligence operation; or (ii)  the disclosure of the information will endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of a special intelligence operation-Penalty:  Imprisonment for 10 years.

[6] http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/intelligence-operations-are-not-above-the-law/story-fni0cwl5-1227136080149

[7] Media Watch 6/10/14-

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