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Limits on free media in Australia rejected

Thursday 20 Oct 2011
Australia’s leading media organisations have rejected a proposal by the federal government for a protocol to limit reporting of sensitive law enforcement and security information, The Age reports.

Robert McClelland

However, they have agreed to facilitate communication with police and security agencies in the interest of public safety.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s proposal for a national security media protocol was sharply criticised by media organisations as “counterproductive”, “unworkable”, “disproportionate” and “unacceptable”.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott warned that the protocol could lead to “a limit on freedom of the media disproportionate to what is necessary in a democratic society”.

Mr McClelland originally made his proposal last year but later abandoned it and instead focused on securing agreement on an emergency contact list to improve communication between police and security agencies and media organisations.

Details of his proposals and media responses have been released by the federal Attorney-General’s Department in response to a freedom-of-information application by The Age.

Mr McClelland told The Age last week he wished to protect operationally sensitive information “while also remaining respectful of editorial independence, freedom of speech and the public’s right to know”.