WASHINGTON, October 3 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova, - Australia's new security law, that imposes a prison sentence for disclosing information about intelligence operations and has no exemptions for the media, threatens freedom of speech and infringes on basic rights, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Elaine Pearson told RIA Novosti Friday.
"This new national security law will have a chilling effect on free speech," Pearson said. "Journalists and editors will think twice before risking prison time. It infringes on basic rights and risks criminalizing the legitimate actions of whistleblowers, journalists and human rights activists."
She said HRW would be monitoring the implementation of the law in order to examine its impact on journalists, whistleblowers and human rights activists.
The new legislation was introduced by the Australian government on Wednesday to boost security in the wake of a terrorist threat from the Islamic State extremist group. The security law bans copying, transcribing, retaining and recording intelligence materials. Disclosing information concerning special intelligence operations is also prohibited.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has already expressed its deep concern about the new legislation, saying the law had a "chilling effect" on reporting in general and noting that it was part of a set of other security measures in Australia that threatens press freedom.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends civil liberties in the digital sphere, said terrorism was being used as a pretext to pass the new law and other legal changes aimed at introducing a surveillance regime in the country.