Australia

Australia's media executives are fronting a major press freedom inquiry today

Editorial Director of the ABC Craig McMurtie speaks to the media outside the ABC building at Ultimo in Sydney, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Source: AAP Image/David Gray

The heads of Australia's major media organisations will appear before a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom and national security in Sydney on Tuesday.

Senior executives from Australia's major media organisations are preparing to state a united case for a major rethink on balancing press freedom and national security.

The heads of various media organisations will front federal parliament's powerful intelligence and security committee in Sydney on Tuesday.

Their joint appearance comes after Australian Federal Police raids on the Canberra home of a News Corp journalist and the Sydney office of the ABC over separate investigations into government leaks.

The AFP raids were widely condemned as heavy-handed and for having a chilling effect on reporting.

Senior figures from the ABC will also appear before the committee, along with various human rights and legal advocates.

On Wednesday, the committee will hear from law enforcement and intelligence agencies including the AFP.

The inquiry will investigate the impact and appropriateness of law enforcement and intelligence powers, weighing concerns and statements of support.

Ahead of the public hearings, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton gave new directions to the AFP on investigations into journalists and media organisations.

It is understood the direction will apply to the News Corp and ABC investigations.

"A key function of the AFP is the enforcement of the criminal law, without exception," Mr Dutton said on Friday.

"However, I expect the AFP to take into account the importance of a free and open press in Australia's democratic society and to consider broader public interest implications before undertaking investigative action involving a professional journalist or news media organisation in relation to an unauthorised disclosure."

He said he expected AFP officers to "exhaust alternative investigative actions", and the voluntary co-operation of journalists and media organisations, before they considered further action.

As well, government departments and agencies will need to provide a "harm statement" - indicating the extent to which the disclosure is expected to significantly compromise Australia's national security - before referring a leak to the AFP.

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