Possible Afghan Files probe journalist prosecution sparks free media law call

The Afghan Files
The Afghan Files ... How the ABC reported a "Defence leak exposing deadly secrets of Australia’s special forces" in 2017. Image: Screen shot of ABC/PMC

Pacific Media Watch

Australia’s ABC has revealed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) recommendation regarding the Afghan Files investigative journalism report is for the Commonwealth DPP to consider charging journalist Dan Oakes for his role in the leak.

The revelation has prompted a renewed call by the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (APJ) for a media freedom law.

ABC’s managing director David Anderson said in a statement “The Afghan Files is factual and important reporting which exposed allegations about Australian soldiers committing war crimes in Afghanistan.

READ MORE: The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom and what it campaigns for

“Its accuracy has never been challenged.”

Peter Greste, AJF’s spokesperson, said Australia urgently needed a Media Freedom Act.

“Australia is the only Five Eyes nation that has similar levels of national security protections, but no press freedom protections written into our legal code,” he said.

“To find balance between these two fundamental pillars of democracy, we urgently need a Media Freedom Act.

“The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom has been calling for a Media Freedom Act since May 2019, three weeks before the AFP’s raids on Annika Smethurst’s home and ABC’s Ultimo offices.

“The news that an Australian journalist who reported in the public interest is now at risk of being prosecuted by the Commonwealth DPP is a plain example that we need to strike this balance urgently, or risk further damaging our democracy.”

The AJF promotes press freedom and the right of journalists to report the news in freedom and safety. This includes working with Australian governments to ensure legislation supports press freedom.

The alliance also campaigns in the Asia-Pacific region, wherever journalists are censored, threatened, imprisoned or killed.

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