QUEENSLAND’S NEW SHIELD LAWS PROTECT NO-ONE, LEAST OF ALL JOURNALISTS

In May, Queensland Parliament passed the state’s new “shield laws”, which the Government said would project journalists from being forced to divulge their sources.

Contained in the Evidence and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, however, are a number of ‘get out’ clauses, which render its so-called “protections” as tokenistic at best.

One of the biggest loopholes is that it is left to the courts to decide whether a journalist’s ‘right to privilege’, is outweighed by a ‘public interest’ right for an informant’s identity to be made known.

If it is, then the judge can overrule the “shield laws”.

No criteria or rules are given to explain how the “public interest” is determined.

It is just left up to the discretion of the judge to decide.

Another problem is that the “shield laws” don’t apply to the secretive ‘star chamber’ powers of Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).

Given the CCC star chamber has been the main instigator of attacks and threats against journalists in Queensland over the past decade, its exemption from the laws is a massive oversight.

All of which makes it surprising that no journalist or media organisation raised any objection to the “shield laws” at the time – or has criticised them since.

Surely they realise that any journalist or whistle-blower relying on these laws when exposing the wrong doings of power, would be taking an enormous risk.

The fact is, without strong and effective shield laws, informants and whistle-blowers simply won’t be prepared to divulge vital information that the public needs to know.

Even if they did, what journalist or editor in Queensland would be game enough to publish the details?

Just how secretive Queensland has become was exposed by an ABC report in February, which began:

“There is a politician we can’t name, using a non-publication order we can’t get, in a case to suppress a report by a corruption watchdog which won’t talk about it, in a court hearing that was held with no names.”

“Welcome to Queensland.”

Says it all really.

As Julian Assange once said:

“The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect POLITICAL security, NOT national security”.

 

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