Pacific Media Watch

28 July 2017

AUSTRALIA: RSF condemns 'alarming bid' to crack message encryption

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RSF is alarmed at proposed moves by Australia's government to crack encrypted messages on secure apps such as WhatsApp over fears it violates source safety. Image: Kendall Hutt/PMC

AUCKLAND (Reporters Without Borders/Pacific Media Watch): Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has echoed concerns by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance over a push by Australia's government to force tech companies to break encrypted communications.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed last week that his government intends to make it possible for authorities to read encrypted messages sent between users of apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage by introducing new legislation.

But while the Australian government says the proposed move is to combat crime and terrorism, RSF says it poses a threat to both privacy and the confidentiality of journalists' data and sources.

"Freedom of information must not be sacrificed to the fight against terrorism. The authorities must not be allowed to spy on journalists and their sources," says Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF's journalism and technology bureau.

As a result, RSF says it "fully supports" the criticism expressed by the MEAA in a July 14 statement and has called on Turnbull's government to change course and abandon any planned legislation that would allow authorities to access individual user data.

Vialle says: “Such legislation would violate the public’s right to privacy and would pose a danger to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and whistleblowers."

Australia is ranked 19th out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons