Protecting Protest – Protecting Journalism and the importance of Press Freedom

Screen grab of 4 corners program preview

An alarming attack on press freedom is underway, with the WA Police demanding Four Corners hands over all raw footage for their show that has been in the pipeline for months – screening this Monday 9th October – you can watch and live tweet/report commentary which we will upload a resource and socials guide for shortly. In the meantime we must #ProtectProtest AND #ProtectJournalism and you can support the Media entertainment and arts alliance in their call for #PressFreedom

With thanks to our excellent allies at the Australian Democracy Network, Human Rights Law Centre and many others – civil society, journalists and the media union representing journalists have come out against an alarming precedent that must be resisted – handing over what could be hundreds of hours of raw footage, gathered over months, of activists and commentators connected to the climate movement and civil resistance.

If you have been interviewed for this program – you may have invited trusted and credible reporters into your house, your organisation, to behind the scenes meetings and trainings, to your private spaces, and your own thoughts on the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and your reasons for resisting fossil fuel expansion.

Police have already raided and charged activists involved with Extinction Rebellion and Disrupt Burrup Hub with crimes NOT RELATING to their documented involvement in protests. Not only is this subpoena an assault on press freedom and a cornerstone of our democracy – but the intelligence able to be gathered on the climate movement amidst 100s of hours of footage could put many people at risk – not just in the short term, but in terms of gathering intel against peaceful activists that could be used for spurious charges and to potentially drum up vague rationale for surveillance, harassment and more raids.

Please join us in contacting the ABC and demanding they refuse to participate in this dangerous precedent and support the MEAA. We are tweeting @ABCAustralia and @AbcNews using #ProtectJournalism #PressFreedom
Their facebook page is here and other contact details are here.

Our public broadcasters have a vital role in reporting on the climate crisis, including peaceful climate protests and the actions of fossil fuel companies.

It is shocking that the ABC’s Four Corners has been ordered by WA police to hand over all footage of peaceful protesters recently filmed for a program on climate activism. It is an alarming overreach and undermines press freedom. Protecting sources is an ethical obligation of journalists and must be respected.

Across the country the right to protest is being undermined. This will have a chilling effect on journalists and peaceful protests, and is fundamentally undemocratic.

We stand with ABC journalists, and urge the ABC to protect its sources and continue its public interest journalism on the climate crisis and the role of peaceful protests in calling for change.

This statement and signatories is available here and Disrupt Burrup Hub commentary here.