Tougher hurdles for warrants against media

Australia’s attorney-general has promised a raft of changes to better protect journalists and whistleblowers.

Christian Porter says the reforms will improve press freedom.

The government has accepted all recommendations directed towards it from parliament’s inquiry into press freedom conducted by the powerful committee on intelligence and security.

The changes include ensuring only judges from the supreme or federal courts can issue search warrants against journalists for offences related to disclosing sensitive information.

“Transparency is a key foundation of a healthy democracy,” Mr Porter said on Wednesday.

“These reforms support the right of journalists and whistleblowers to hold governments at all levels to account by shining a light on issues that are genuinely in the public interest.”

The issue came to the fore last year when a warrant to search a News Corp journalist’s home – later slapped down by the High Court – was issued by an ACT magistrate.

It allowed her home to be searched by federal police in relation to a story claiming the government wanted to broaden its powers to spy on Australians.

Mr Porter said a public interest advocate would now have to consider whether issuing a warrant against a journalist for such offences was necessary.

Mr Porter has also promised to improve reporting requirements to warrants used against journalists, and ensure the government looks at extra defences for public interest journalism in response to secrecy charges.

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