In what could be called as a rare show of unity, Australia's biggest newspapers on October 21, 2019, have run front pages designed to appear heavily redacted. The campaign was organized to challenge the government secrecy and legislation that puts reporting and press freedom at risk.
National and regional mastheads including The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review hit the newsstands with most of their frontpage stories blacked out.
The protest by leading newspapers is designed to put public pressure on the government to exempt journalists from laws restricting access to sensitive information, enact a properly functioning freedom of information system, and raise the benchmark for defamation lawsuits.
"It's about defending the basic right of every Australian to be properly informed about the important decisions the government is making in their name," Hugh Marks, chief executive of Nine said in a statement.
Australia has no constitutional safeguards for free speech. The government added a provision to protect whistleblowers when it strengthened counter-espionage laws in 2018, although media organisations say press freedoms remain restricted.
The risk to the freedom of the press came into the limelight in June this yearwhen police raided the head office of the ABC in Sydney and the home of a News Corp editor on suspicion of receiving national secrets.
The raids, which involved police examination of about 9,000 computer files at the ABC and sifting through the female editor's stuff, drew international condemnation.
The ABC said at the time that the raid on its office was in relation to 2017 stories about accusations of military misconduct in Afghanistan. News Corp has said that the raid on its employee concerned an article about government plans to spy on Australians' emails, text messages and bank accounts.