We at Neos Kosmos find last week’s raids on the ABC, and on News Corp journalist Annika Smethhust by the Australian Federal Police, (AFP), as disturbing and dangerous.
We know that governments often need to keep some things secret but not forever and not without good cause. We do not believe in irresponsible leaks of mass information to the public without context.
When reporting, we try to ensure the safety of whistle blowers, and truth seekers who wish to expose unjust or criminal behaviour in governments and powerful institutions. However, the catchall nature and extension of section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act can result in Government whistle-blowers and the journalists who report on leaked information facing up to 20 years’ jail terms. Labor supported the Coalition’s bill extending the powers to police and intelligence authorities.
As Hellenes, as the ancient custodians of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and association, believe in the intrinsic virtue of justice and liberty as a package. We believe that the actions of the AFP will harvest a lack of trust in an otherwise good institution.
Since 1957 Neos Kosmos has been at the forefront of campaigns for social justice, human rights and political freedoms in Greece, Cyprus, in Australia and elsewhere. We are enmeshed in constant dialogue as Greeks and journalists over the role of freedom of speech and justice.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press – warts and all – is better than the limitation of natural liberty and suppression of speech. Nothing has convinced us over 2500 years that a diminution of liberty, censorious governments and intrusive police actions against media, teachers and political advocates make society safer.
READ MORE: Press Freedom in Greece plummets
As journalists we understand the need for responsible reporting. We fully support the Racial Vilification Act and do not view racial hate speech as freedom of speech. As Greeks we know as that some ideas may cause offence to some however that is part of free and open dialogue. Like the Greeks of Ancient Athens, and like Pericles, we see the importance of free yet responsible speech. Ancient Greeks considered fearless speech, parrhesia, παρρησία, to be a presentation of the truth once permission is given to speak in the Ἀγορά, Agora, or assembly. We distinguished various forms of parrhesia, the most negative being when one is allowed to say anything, even the most stupid and dangerous things for the state.
Neos Kosmos takes care to not jeopardise the role of judicial courts, or endanger our security apparatus, nor to defame people. At the same time, we know that the state, institutions, and individuals will not always act in accordance with our virtues – virtues enshrined in all democracies – unless they are kept in check by a healthy and fearless fourth estate.
Hellenes have suffered and shed much blood in wars of liberation from Ottoman colonisers, Nazi and Axis occupiers in World War II and in later bringing down Military Junta of 1967-74. State authority under the guise of ‘protecting’ morality, society, or nation often bears tyranny. We have endured and defeated many tyrannies due to our unyielding belief in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Neos Kosmos believes that the only way to maintain trust in government, the police and our intelligence institutions and to ensure freedom of speech and media freedom is through a Bill of Rights. A bill of rights would list the fundamental rights of citizens of a country. It ensures that the rights of individuals are safe from violation by the state, or by other individuals.
Australia is the only liberal democracy not to have either a constitutionally entrenched bill of rights or a national human rights act. Given the authority Prime Minister Morrison enjoys for now, we call upon him to harvest that authority and ensure his place in Australia’s history as the PM that ushered a Bill of Rights for Australia.