The responsibility of speaking up for something as important as press freedom is daunting and I constantly worry that I am not up to the task.
I worry for my parents and for my friends. Worry is my new normal.
John Lyons spent nine hours in a room with six AFP officers — who were unfailingly polite and respectful — but who were doing something he believed attacked the very essence of journalism.
In almost 40 years in journalism — and having myself been on an AFP warrant after I received and wrote stories based on leaked defence intelligence documents — I had never seen a warrant this all-encompassing.
The power to delete official documents reminded me of George Orwell’s book 1984.
Remember Winston Smith, who worked in the records department of the Ministry of Truth?
Part of his job was to delete documents or newspaper reports of wars which his government wanted to pretend never happened.
But this was Australia in 2019 — not George Orwell’s Oceania in 1984.
As Cory Doctorow argues in a separate piece:
The Australian authorities insist that the raids were not coordinated and that it’s all a coincidence. As Caitlin Johnson points out, that’s a hell of a coincidence, and if it’s true, it’s even scarier than the idea that the raids were coordinated — instead, it means that Australia’s cops and prosecutors have gotten the message that it’s open season on public interest journalism and are acting accordingly, with lots more to come.
Rebecca Ananian-Welsh argues that the raids are a threat to democracy:
One of the most disturbing outcomes is not prosecutions or even the raids themselves, but the chilling of public interest journalism. Sources are less likely to come forward, facing risk to themselves and a high likelihood of identification by government agencies. And journalists are less likely to run stories, knowing the risks posed to their sources and perhaps even to themselves.
In regards to 1984, Dorian Lynskey argues that we have gone beyond the vision painted by Orwell.
The full force of federal law this week was really being unflinchingly pointed elsewhere — at people whose names we don’t even know yet: the future whistle-blowers.
These are the real quiet Australians: the people our most important journalists rely upon to bring you the most important stories in the public interest, and they do what they do in terrifying isolation.
At a federal level, whistle-blowers in this country face jail for making disclosures about subjects including immigration and national security: exactly the kinds of subjects that require inconvenient and uncomfortable scrutiny within a healthy democracy.