Research – Press Freedom

In Australia, press freedom lacks the legal protection or recognition found elsewhere. This has allowed our laws to encroach on press freedom and led to a ‘chilling effect’ across public interest journalism.

In 2019, following successive police raids on journalists, Australia dropped 5 places (to 26) in the World Press Freedom Index. Whilst Australia was once the model for press freedom in the Asia-Pacific Region, Reporters Sans Frontiers’ reported that it “is now characterised by its threats to the confidentiality of sources and to investigative journalism.”

This project is part of a collaborative study between the UQ School of Law and School of  Communication and Arts, combining legal analysis with on-the-ground research. 

White paper

Our research has shown that Australian legislation is criminalising what used to be considered legitimate journalistic inquiry into the inner workings of government. At the same time, espionage and data retention laws are exposing whistle-blowers to legal sanction at a time when they ought to be protected and honoured. Collectively, the legislation is undermining the very transparency and accountability that has made our democracy one of the strongest in the world. This White Paper is our answer to that trend.



Press Freedom in Australia



Alliance for Journalists' Freedom. 
PDF | May 2019

Policy papers

The first in a series of papers to provide background and recommendations for reform.

Police Do not cross tapeThe 2019 AFP raids on Australian Journalists

Background briefing
Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh
PDF | September 2020 


R. Ananian-Welsh, ‘Journalistic Confidentiality in an Age of Data Surveillance’ (2019) 41(2) Australian Journalism Review 225-239.

R. Ananian-Welsh, ‘Smethurst v Commissioner of Police and the unlawful seizure of journalists’ private information’ (2020) 24 Media and Arts Law Review 60-71.

R. Ananian-Welsh and J. Orange, ‘The Confidentiality of Journalists’ Sources in Police Investigations: Privacy, Privilege and the Freedom of Political Communication’ (2020 forthcomingAustralian Law Journal (invited contribution, special thematic issue: privacy).