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How Australia’s Espionage Laws Could Silence Whistle-Blowers and Activists

PHOTO: Zee News

By Damien Cave | 30 January 2018

THE NEW YORK TIMES — When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia recently proposed new espionage laws, he stressed the need for disclosure: Public officials with ties to overseas governments and entities would have to report any foreign effort to shape domestic politics.

The bills, first introduced in December, were seen by many in government as a vital tool for protecting against meddling by countries like China and Russia. But lawyers groups, human rights organizations, journalists and government watchdogs have all criticized the new rules as so far-reaching that they threaten to make Australia more like the authoritarian regimes it aims to resist.

“It’s giving government a hell of a lot of power, and it’s dangerous,” said Elaine Pearson, the Australia director for Human Rights Watch.

The government insists the laws are necessary and worded carefully. Hearings on the legislation started Tuesday, with testimony focused on the risks of the laws’ broad approach to security. As other democracies, including Britain, the United States and Japan, move in a similar direction toward more secrecy with information, we examined what kinds of real-life scenarios might be affected. […]

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