This is my last edition as Crikey editor. From Monday, Crikey’s managing ed, Cassidy Knowlton, will step up to the role, and I will head home to Sydney to take up a position as head of news at BuzzFeed Australia.
When I started in this job two years ago I set out to renew Crikey’s mission as a place to go for tipsters, leakers and whistleblowers. Crikey has always had a strong culture of leaks and an influential audience. A lot of what we get tipped off about is great fun — who said what in the Qantas lounge, who got messy at the races — but there’s a serious side to it, too.
In the last two years the war on whistleblowers in this country has been stepped up a notch.
We now have a mandatory data retention scheme, laws prohibiting media coverage of “special intelligence operations” (with jail sentences for journalists who report them), and the Australian Border Force Act — two years in jail for anyone who works in detention centres and speaks to the media about conditions inside. The ABF Act in particular is an alarming example of how a government and compliant opposition can work together, quickly and with very little public scrutiny, to shut down transparency in an entire area of government.
Working with anonymous sources is more risky than ever — the old guarantee that you’d be willing to go to jail rather than reveal a source no longer cuts it in the age of mass surveillance.
Our own Bernard Keane led the charge against mandatory data retention laws, but many in the media turned the other way. Laurie Oakes admitted in a speech to the Melbourne Press Club last year that the media had largely dropped the ball on press freedom and protection for anonymous sources.
As journalists, and as people who believe in the right to know, we need to remain vigilant about laws designed to shut down scrutiny and reduce transparency. We also need to remember that, sometimes, the best option is to break them. Crikey’s role as a home for tipsters and leakers is more important than ever.
Marni Cordell, editor