New security laws place restrictions on Australian media

2014-10-01 15:02

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Sydney - New laws cracking down on media reporting of Australian security operations were passed by the parliament in Canberra on Wednesday as part of tougher security legislation.

Journalists, bloggers and whistleblowers who "recklessly" disclose information that relates to a "special intelligence operation" face up to 10 years in jail under the new legislation.

Any security operation can be declared "special" by the attorney general after an application by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The legislation also enables the entire Australian internet to be monitored by ASIO and security forces with a single computer warrant.

"No-go" zones outside Australia

Secret service agents now have immunity from prosecution so long as their actions do not involve death, serious injury, sexual offences, torture or significant damage to property.

A second piece of legislation requires people who visit "no-go" zones outside Australia, such as Syria or Iraq, to prove they were not involved in fighting or terrorist activities.

The legislation was passed with only the Greens and some independent lawmakers voting against it, despite objections from media organizations, academics, lawyers and civil rights campaigners.

Attorney General George Brandis said the new security laws were the most significant reforms to the power of security agencies since the 1970s.

"What we have achieved tonight is to ensure that those who protect us, particularly in a newly dangerous age, have the strong powers and capabilities they need but we've also achieved the outcome that those strong powers are protected and balanced by strong safeguards," Brandis said as the bill passed the Senate.

Brandis ruled out suggested amendments requiring a sentencing judge to take into account public interest in the disclosure, saying they were unnecessary.

Read more on:    australia

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