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May 2, 2008

Newspaper raid 'like in Malaysia'

malaysiatoday - MAJOR media organisations yesterday unanimously condemned a government-instigated raid on The Sunday Times newspaper in Perth and leading media academics likened it to oppressive tactics used in Malaysia.

The newspaper was locked down for about four hours on Wednesday as 16 police from the Major Fraud Squad tried to find a confidential document allegedly leaked to journalist Paul Lampathakis for a story about election funding. The complaint to police, and to the Corruption and Crime Commission, came from the department of Premier Alan Carpenter, a former journalist.

The Carpenter Government tried to defend itself yesterday, saying the director-general of Mr Carpenter's department had been obliged by law to report the alleged leak to both the Major Fraud Squad and the CCC.

The CCC has the power to compel journalists to reveal their sources or receive three years' jail and a $60,000 fine. Those called in to be grilled - there are believed to have been six in the past two years - are not allowed to tell friends or families they have been questioned.

Murdoch University journalism lecturer Chris Smyth said: "Western Australia is starting to excel in the repression of reporters going about their duties trying to reveal information to the public."

Speaking on behalf of media coalition Australia's Right to Know, News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan described the raid as a "farcical and transparent attempt by a police force to punish journalists and whistleblowers if a government suffers political embarrassment".

The Government's complaint on February 12 this year followed the publication on February 10 of Lampathakis's exclusive report on a state government decision to spend an extra $16 million on advertising, allegedly to support its re-election campaign.
"Do we now live in a country where whistleblowers and journalists can expect to be hunted down and charged if they reveal government information that is a matter of legitimate public interest?" Mr Hartigan said. "The answer, regrettably, appears to be yes." more...


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