May 12, 2013
Journalists have a right to national shield laws to protect the confidentiality of their sources of information, the WikiLeaks Party (WLP) said today.
In its first major policy declaration, the newly formed Party said current state-based shield laws were inadequate to meet current threats to press freedom. If the WLP is elected to the Senate at the forthcoming federal election in September it will move immediately to introduce a national shield law.
The WLP plans to contest Senate seats in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia at the September 14 election with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, standing for one of the six Senate seats being contested in Victoria.
“Only a uniform shield law covering the whole Commonwealth is acceptable,” said WLP spokespersons Cassie Findlay and Sam Castro.
Announcing its plan to use the Senate to legislate to ensure media freedom and open government, Ms Findlay and Ms Castro said: “Government agencies, at federal, state and local level, are increasingly gaining powers to obtain information about individual citizens.
“We rely on journalists working in the media to have unhindered access to their sources so as to expose what is corrupt, wasteful and incompetent in our society.
“Uniform shield laws legislated by federal parliament are the answer. That is what we stand for and that is what we will fight for if elected. One of the Party’s first actions in the Senate would be to introduce such a law.
“Effective national shield laws go hand-in-hand with uniform whistle-blower laws, particularly covering media disclosures.”
The WLP does not support the current proposed federal whistle-blower laws because they fail to protect whistle-blowers if they reveal corruption or misdeeds by federal parliamentarians or if they involve exposing misconduct by the secret intelligence services.
Ms Castro said, “The proposed laws are not only unsatisfactory, they are a clumsy attempt by the major parties to protect themselves from embarrassing scrutiny. Once again, the WLP in the Senate would amend the current proposed laws to ensure no individual or agency is exempt from scrutiny.
“The WLP’s ultimate aim is the constitutional enshrinement of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. We insist on these primary rights to be written into the constitutions of emerging nations, yet they still haven’t been adopted in our own constitution. This historic anomaly has to be addressed and fixed eventually.”
The WLP also today gave unconditional support to journalists currently facing court action and severe penalties for refusing to disclose their sources, with Ms Findlay saying: “Politicians in a liberal democracy should be the principal custodians of the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.
“When super-rich plaintiffs such as mining billionaire Gina Rinehart are using the courts to intimidate journalists like Fairfax Media’s Adele Ferguson and the West Australian’s Steve Pennells, and other journalists such as Richard Baker and Neil McKenzie of The Age and Philip Dorling are also under professional attack for doing their job, then it is high time for the federal parliament to provide journalists with ironclad legal protection,” Ms Findlay concluded.
FOR ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES CONTACT:
Cassie Findlay 0405 222 251
Sam Castro 0405 333 352