Labor digs in over press freedom inquiry

A parliamentary inquiry into press freedom appears increasingly likely after the AFP raids.
A parliamentary inquiry into press freedom appears increasingly likely after the AFP raids.

Federal Labor says a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of national security laws on press freedom is "absolutely" needed.

But some members of the Morrison government are reportedly arguing against the inquiry, fearing it will become politicised.

"There needs to be greater input than just the executive," Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

"People in society have a right to have an input into the role of media in our society, because it's an essential component of our democracy."

The Australian Greens also support an inquiry.

Calls for the inquiry come after federal police raids on the Canberra home of a newspaper journalist and the ABC's Sydney headquarters.

While government frontbencher Michael Sukkar isn't opposed to looking at how press freedom can be maintained, he doesn't believe there is cause for concern.

"I think we've seen some commentary over the last week or so that's probably been a bit exaggerated in my view. I think we do have a very open and free press," he told Sky News.

"As someone who's in a position like mine, I feel as though we do have strong scrutiny."

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says if analysis shows there is a need to improve laws to better protect media freedom, the government won't rule out making changes.

The Australian Federal Police raid on the ABC related to a series of stories in 2017 alleging Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.

The other raid related to a 2018 story detailing a government proposal to spy on Australians.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Fletcher met with ABC chair Ita Buttrose and the broadcaster's managing director David Anderson on Tuesday, as the ABC weighs up legal action to get the seized documents returned.

Ms Buttrose says the broadcaster will likely know where it stands on legal action by the end of the week.

"Then we will decide which way we will go," she told reporters in Hobart on Thursday.

The ABC is also speaking with other media outlets about whether they should band together to request changes to the "patchwork" of laws that currently govern press freedom.

"We think perhaps we need to ask the government to have a look at those laws to see if we can perhaps have a better way of doing things," Ms Buttrose said.

The journalists' union has called for law reform and a Media Freedom Act.

Australian Associated Press