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Australian news organizations slam new sedition laws

[JURIST] Australia's three major news organizations have submitted a joint report to the Australian Law Reform Commission [official website; sedition materials], the independent federal statutory agency charged with conducting official inquiries into areas for possible legal reform, slamming the late 2005 enactment [JURIST report] of the new federal sedition laws [summary] as part of sweeping anti-terrorism legislation [text]. Fairfax, the publisher of Melbourne's The Age, News Ltd. and Australian Associated Press [media websites] said that the laws dealing with incitement of terrorists are excessive and should not be applied to major Australian media outlets.

The publishers expressed concern that they could be found guilty of sedition by printing quotations from groups or individuals that criticize Australian or US policies in Iraq or elsewhere if the quotes are found by a court to provide support for terrorists, or if the quotes are found to "urge" communal violence threatening the peace, order and good government of Australia, which are both criminalized by the new sedition laws. Furthermore, the publishers insist that the good faith defense afforded by the new law would not necessarily provide adequate protection to news outlets, as good faith could be impossible to prove. The Law Reform Commission is actively soliciting public comment on the sedition laws, and the Australian government has insisted that criticism of the law will be duly considered. AAP has more. International press freedom group Article 19 [advocacy group] has also made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission criticizing the new laws [PDF].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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