Maintaining a free press

Photo: Tim Bauer

Photo: Tim Bauer

How can we hold powerful people to account when journalists, and media institutions, are compromised?

This is a question that matters to Peter Greste.

In his riveting new book, The First Casualty, Greste examines the issue of global press freedom in the volatile 21st Century. Drawing on his own experience of reporting as a foreign correspondent, including his incarceration and trial in Egypt, Greste also looks at the nightmare of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Australia's own metadata laws and Trump's campaign against journalists in the U.S.

Greste warns that Australia's metadata legislation undermines the basic principles of due process, privacy and rule of law.

"Metadata legislation was introduced for national security reasons. The government said it needed access to our metadata to keep us safe from terrorists," he explains.

"A whole host of government agencies have access to Australians' metadata without having to apply for a warrant, but the warrant system exists because we need to have a legal oversight to ensure those agencies have proper justification to investigate us.

"I don't see why we need to throw that out - it's needed to maintain a proper balance between the power and authority of the state and the rights of individuals."

Greste says the legislation, as far as the media is concerned, is also making it hard for journalists to talk to their sources and protect their sources.

"One of the most deeply held principles of the free press is to protect our sources. We can't do that if government agencies can investigate without a warrant.

"We know that metadata was used to investigate leaks from sources around Naura, and even though journalists' own data is protected, we also know that a journalist's metadata has accidentally been investigated by authorities.

"Particularly within governments, it makes it impossible for the public servant to uphold their duty to the public, not to the government, if they can't come to us under protection.

"I think that's a very serious undermining of the media's capacity to hold governments to account."

At the Kyneton Town Hall this coming Friday, Greste joins Rafael Epstein for a discussion of the changing nature, and challenges, of investigative journalism in the age of terrorism.

Tickets are just $10.