The Guardian, GCHQ, the leaked security files and the airport arrest – an Australian view

By MARK PEARSON

It is fascinating when an area of your research suddenly launches into life in a real event.

That happened in the UK this week when Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed senior government officials had ordered him to destroy computer hard drives containing leaked National  Security Agency (NSA) files or face court action which would almost inevitably result in an order to hand the material over.

We also learned the partner of a Guardian journalist was held at Heathrow Airport for nine hours under anti-terrorism laws, prompting the question ‘Could this happen in Australia?’.

The answer – put simply – is ‘Yes’, as I explained to Richard Aedy on Radio National’s Media Report this week.

You can download that interview here.

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I’ve been working with Griffith University colleague Associate Professor Jacqui Ewart and lawyer Joshua Lessing in this space and our article on Australia’s anti-terrorism laws (including some comparison with  the UK situation) was published in the latest edition of the prestigious Journal of Media Law, edited by the legendary media law expert, Professor Eric Barendt.

Our article’s citation is: Ewart, Jacqui; Pearson, Mark; and Lessing, Joshua. ‘Anti-terror laws and the news media in Australia since 2001: how free expression and national security compete in a liberal democracy’. Journal of Media Law, Volume 5, Number 1, July 2013 , pp. 104-132(29).

The abstract follows below.

I hope you enjoy the Media Report interview, and I’m happy to correspond with other scholars interested in this space, and to have contact with students looking to pursue higher degree research in this area and other topics of media and social media law, ethics and regulation.

——-

“The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States triggered an escalation of national security laws globally, including at least 54 in Australia, with some having implications for news reporting and open justice. This article backgrounds the Australian experience with such laws at a time when the United Kingdom is in the midst of a debate over the free expression impacts of its Justice and Security Bill. It uses case studies to highlight tensions between Australia’s security laws and the media’s Fourth Estate role and compares the Australian and UK human rights contexts. The article asks whether anti-terror laws restricting free expression should continue indefinitely in a democracy when national security breaches are likely to remain a major issue of public concern and there is no constitutional or human rights guarantee of free expression. It suggests a cautious approach to the renewal of such laws, particularly those restricting public debate about national security and its impact on human rights.”

– Ewart, Jacqui; Pearson, Mark; and Lessing, Joshua. ‘Anti-terror laws and the news media in Australia since 2001: how free expression and national security compete in a liberal democracy’. Journal of Media Law, Volume 5, Number 1, July 2013 , pp. 104-132(29).

© Mark Pearson 2013

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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