I have a new found respect for press baron, Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan.
I am kind of surprised at myself that I’d be defending a Murdoch when a lot of what his father and brother did, with the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal, was utterly indefensible and brought great discredit to the profession called journalism. In fact Rupert can count himself lucky he didn’t end up sharing a prison cell with one of his senior editors who wasn’t quite so lucky.
Today, Lachlan Murdoch took aim at the Australian Government’s new security laws and how they plan to apply them in relation to journalists.
In what is clearly an attack on press freedom, the new laws are aimed at whistleblowers or people who might be contemplating such an action and journalists who might be the recipients of that information. The penalty is Draconian. Up to 10 years imprisonment.
Lachlan picked a most opportune moment to let fly with what he thought about the Government’s laws. The occasion was an oration in honor of his Grandfather, the late, great, Sir Keith Murdoch, a legendary and fearless Australian newspaperman in his day.
His opening salvo was to remind everyone present that Australia ranks 33rd, just behind Belize on the Freedom House index, which is literally an index of freedom in the world. Twenty years ago the country was 9th.
Lachlan Murdoch told his audience that the Australian Government was always invoking the phrase: trust us we’re the Government while at the same time attempting to censor the media. But trust, should not be a consideration when it comes to restricting any kind of fundamental freedom. Hard won rights like Freedom of speech and freedom of the press should never be blindly entrusted to anyone.
He said the Government’s terminology when invoking these new laws against journalists, who might receive information considered to be revealing “special intelligence operations,” was both misleading and ambiguous. In any case, the Government had given itself the power to arbitrarily decide what does or does not constitute a “ special intelligence operation.”
Lachlan Murdoch then rhetorically and very cheekily asked if the Gallipoli campaign would have been classified as a “ special intelligence operation.”
He then went on to tell the story of how his Grandfather, Sir Keith Murdoch came into possession of leaked information, which he published, revealing the Gallipoli military disaster where 8000 Australians had been killed. It was the contents of a private communication between Sir Keith and the then Prime Minister of the day.
Lachlan Murdoch then suggested if this had been 2014, instead of 1914, his Grandfather would, in all likelihood, be facing the prospect of 10 years imprisonment for telling the Australian people information they had a right to know about. His Grandfather was praised rather than condemned for the brave stand he took in publishing what he had been told. And knowing his Grandfather to be the man that he was, Sir Keith would have happily gone to jail, if necessary, for revealing it.
Lachlan Murdoch told his audience that censorship should be resisted in “all its insidious forms.” He urged all Australians to be vigilant and spirited in their resistance to the gradual erosion of hard won freedoms such as the right to know, the right to be informed and the ability to make reasoned decisions in our society and in our democracy.
He ended with a flourish. Urging everyone in general, and journalists in particular, to be like his Grandfather and have the courage to act when those freedoms are threatened.
My sources tell me he was given a standing ovation. So I say, well done young Murdoch. You’re a chip off the old block after all. And Grandad would be very proud.