MEAA Condemns New Data Retention Law With Risk Posed To Journalist Sources

Photo of a businessman sat at a desk with two traditional telephones, one red and one black. Both handsets are raised and he doesn't know who to talk to first.

The peak organisation for journalists, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), has condemned the new data retention law that came into effect yesterday.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

The law, which was passed in March this year, means telecommunications and mobile companies are required to keep the metadata of consumers for two years.

Metadata refers to the who, what, when and where of a communication, but not the why. For example, in emails, the telco will know who you sent an email to, at what time, from where, but won’t know the subject matter. Read all you need know about the new laws here.

The law also means government agencies can access the metadata without a warrant. However, they will need to obtain a Journalists Information Warrant when trying to find out sources.

The MEAA released a statement on Monday, the day before the data retention laws came into place, condemning the law, saying it poses a risk to journalists and their sources.

Under the MEAA code of ethics, it’s an obligation to protect the identity of anonymous sources.

The MEAA said the new laws will mean government agencies will be able to circumvent these obligations. The Journalist Information Warrant scheme, mentioned above, was apparently a last-minute inclusion, and one which the MEAA deems “no safeguard at all”.

“Merely cosmetic dressing that demonstrates a failure to understand or deal with the press freedom threat contained in the legislation,” a statement on the MEAA website said.

The MEAA claims it was introduced without any consultation and will operate in secret “with the threat of a two year jail term for reporting the existence of a Journalist Information Warrant”.

The director of MEAA’s Media section Katelin McInerney said: “These laws are a massive over-reach by the Government and its agencies. They make every citizen a suspect, seek to intimidate and silence whistleblowers, and crush public interest journalism.

“We ask the Prime Minister to urgently review this and the earlier tranches of national security legislation, to restore a proper balance between free speech and security.”