Following the Australian Federal Police raids on the on journalist Anninka Smethurst and the ABC earlier this month that raised fears around press freedom in Australia, member for Lismore Janelle Saffin was quick to defend the freedom of the press.
Ms Saffin said she was shocked by the raids coming in quick succession and felt compelled to speak up and so on Thursday June 6 she moved a five-point notice of motion in the NSW Legislative Assembly.
‘The trigger, of course, were the circumstances around the Australian Federal Police raids on News Corporation political journalist Annika Smethurst, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sydney headquarters,’Ms Saffin said.
She explained that regardless of how uncomfortable at times it may feel for those subject to public scrutiny defending the freedom of the press was essential. Ms Saffin wanted to put the issue on the record and ensure that the notice of motion was discussed at a future point.
Her notice of motion read:
‘That this House:
1. Affirms its support for one of Australia’s democratic freedoms, the freedom of the press.
2. Affirms its support to maintain a legal, policy, procedural, and practice framework in New South Wales that gives expression to freedom of the press.
3. Notes this freedom has afforded journalists certain privileges and the community expects these privileges to be exercised responsibly.
4. Notes it is the responsibility of parliaments to safeguard and maintain democratic freedoms, that some have fought hard for and paid the ultimate price.
5 Expresses deep disquiet concerning the Australian Federal Police raids that took place on June 3 and June 5 2019 respectively at the home of a News Corporation journalist, Annika Smethurst, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sydney headquarters.’
Ms Saffin said that in public life she had always accepted that the press had a vital role in Australian society, and while she did not agree with everything written, broadcast or televised, she respected the profession of journalism.
‘The modern media landscape is constantly changing, and regional and metropolitan reporters who I deal with on a daily basis often have the job of reporting or commentating on complex issues under challenging circumstances,’ she said.