Major media outlets have united to criticise new laws that they warn could lead to journalists being jailed for reporting on sensitive national security matters.
Publishers and broadcasters, including _The West Australian, _have told a parliamentary inquiry examining proposed anti- terror laws they pose a risk to freedom of the press.
As part of changes to give spy agencies new powers, the Federal Government has flagged tough penalties, including up to 10 years jail, for unauthorised disclosure of information relating to special intelligence operations.
The coalition of media groups, which includes the ABC, News Corp Australia and commercial TV networks, fear the proposed section known as 35P will gag journalists, create uncertainty about whether a matter was a special intelligence operation and leave whistleblowers unprotected.
"The introduction of a serious criminal offence, punishable by jail, for journalists doing their job is strongly opposed," the media submission says.
"This in turn also has a chilling effect on freedom of speech and freedom of the media, hindering news gathering to the detriment of Australia's place amongst modern democracies."
The journalists' union has told the Government the Bill would have made the reporting of revelations Australian spies had tapped the phone of the wife of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono illegal.
A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis referred _The West Australian _to comments by the minister last month when he said journalists were not a target of the new laws.
Senator Brandis said last month the changes were to make the law consistent with provisions in the existing ASIO Act relating to warrants for terrorism offences and the Commonwealth Crimes Act for controlled operations run by the Australian Federal Police.