Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rupert et al attack sedition laws

Major media proprietors, including Rupert Murdoch, are pushing for the abolition or amendment to Australia’s sedition laws. The laws were part of the anti-terrorism legislation rushed through parliament last year.

Fairfax's (Sydney Morning Herald – Age) corporate affairs director, Bruce Wolpe, said: "We think that the law is poorly written, will not contribute to law enforcement and absolutely threatens to gag robust political coverage."

The sedition offence includes "urging the use of force or violence" to overthrow the government, to interfere with an election, or to urge others to assist an organisation or country engaged in armed hostilities with Australia or to urge others to engage in violence against particular groups in the community.

The publishers warn that they risk court for reporting, for example, comments supportive of the defeat of US and Australian goals in Iraq on the grounds that it amounted to support for terrorists.

They say such a report might fall foul of the new offence of "urging" communal violence that threatens the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, if it was seen to cause friction between groups here.

Under the sedition measures, anyone convicted of urging a group to use force or violence against another group could be jailed for up to seven years.

Civil libertarians, artists and a Senate committee have also called for the sedition laws to be scrapped. The Government insists that they will not stifle fair comment.

The laws seem to have more to do with creating fear in the country than providing protective measures against potential terrorism.

While a number of suspected terrorists have been detained since the provisions were rushed into law, none of the investigations or arrests have relied on any aspect of the new code. In every case the standing criminal code has been sufficient to deal with these situations.

The proprietors say there is no real reason for sedition laws that are a threat to journalists, cartoonists, commentators filmmakers and TV hosts alike.

The laws are nothing more than an abuse of power by the Australian government; an abuse which has already triggered unnecessary community trouble.


Anonymous said...

Just curious...has anybody been prosecuted under this law yet?

Cartledge said...