Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s most prominent human rights organisations, will release its 652-page World Report 2020 on Wednesday morning.
Kenneth Roth, the group’s executive director, was this week banned from entry into Hong Kong where he planned to launch the report, which will raise alarms about China’s “assault” on the international human rights system.
The Australian Federal Police last year raided the home of senior News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the Sydney headquarters of the ABC after they published stories containing classified information.
The raids sparked an inquiry by the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is due to hand down its report within months into the effect of national security laws on the nation’s press freedoms.
The search warrants were executed under parts of the 1914 Crimes Act that forbid the leaking and acceptance of classified material.
The Morrison Government has already made some changes to the processes around raids on the media, with Attorney-General Christian Porter instructing Commonwealth prosecutors not to charge journalists under certain sections of national security laws without his formal approval.
Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said Australia’s national security laws shouldn’t be used to intimidate the media or those holding the government to account.
“The government seems intent on sending a message to officials not to share information with journalists,” she said.
The report also said the repeal of the medevac laws had left the 135 people transferred to Australia in limbo.
“Repealing the medevac law was a cruel political manoeuvre that makes it more difficult for
refugees and asylum seekers with serious illnesses – victims of offshore processing
operations – to get the care they need,” Ms Pearson said.
While Australia tended towards a foreign policy that favoured a “quiet diplomacy”, Human Rights Watch said Australia last year took a more vocal stance on key human rights issues including China’s detention of one million Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.