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Journalist sources get protection

Journalist sources get protection

Shield laws passed yesterday (21 March) to protect journalists will also offer protection to whistleblowers, bloggers and "citizen journalists".A private members bill initiated by the…

Shield laws passed yesterday (21 March) to protect journalists will also offer protection to whistleblowers, bloggers and "citizen journalists".

A private members bill initiated by the independent Tasmanian member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and co-sponsored by South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, was passed by the House of Representatives after it agreed to amendments from the Senate.

The Evidence Amendment (Journalists' Privilege) Bill allows journalists to protect the identity of anonymous sources unless a court decides disclosure is in the public interest.

"This Bill is based on the premise that everyone has the fundamental right to free speech and that sometimes people need to speak out anonymously, especially when it comes to people blowing the whistle on official misconduct," Wilkie said.

Before entering Parliament, Wilkie tipped off Channel Nine journalist Laurie Oakes with regard to what he believed was the fabrication of evidence by the Howard Government in outlining its reasons for invading Iraq. Wilkie was a senior intelligence officer at the time.

The lower house passed the Bill after it accepted amendments put forward by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, which extend the shield laws to protect citizen journalists and bloggers.

The Federal Government supported the Bill, which was opposed by the Coalition.

Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, a former barrister, believes the amendments make the definition of a journalist "too broad".

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