A belated, but increasingly angry, reaction from the media has forced both the government and opposition to cave in and offer some protection to journalists and their sources from data retention.

But journalists are not the only ones who don’t merely “have something to hide” but must hide things in order to do their jobs properly. Confidentiality is also a crucial requirement for lawyers and doctors — and that confidentiality is also threatened by data retention.

It is not sufficient for Australia’s media companies and senior journalists to conclude that the job is finished on data retention. Their sources can still be hunted down if a judge provides a warrant. Other professions that, like journalism, need confidentiality are not protected. And the serious erosion of every Australians’ privacy afforded by a mass surveillance scheme that simply will not yield any benefits in fighting crime or terrorism remains. The media should be just as angry about those things as it was about the impact of data retention on journalism.

Or is the media just another special interest group looking after itself?

Update on our new design: due to popular demand the “view in browser” option is now back in its rightful place at the top of the Crikey newsletter. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback, we will roll out other fixes over the next week. — The Crikey team.

Peter Fray

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