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PM says Australian anti-terror proposals won't limit press freedoms

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] has denied complaints that controversial new anti-terrorism proposals [JURIST news archive; JURIST document] were "authoritarian" and would limit freedom of the press. Part of the plan includes allowing a 7-year prison sentence for sedition, defined as threatening the "peace, order and good government of the commonwealth". The Australian Press Council called for this provision to be removed [press release], calling it "unnecessary" and "anachronistic". There has not been a prosecution for sedition since 1960. "If legislation is required to punish incitement to terrorism, they must be in a restricted form that does not adversely affect other areas of freedom of speech or revive eighteenth century authoritarianism, as the current proposal does," said Ken McKinnon, chairman of the APC. Howard responded, "These laws will not stop journalists attacking the government, they will not stop cartoonists lampooning the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. They will not prevent free and open debate because in substance they are no different from the sedition laws that have existed in the past." Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official profile] has agreed to review the sedition provisions after the bill is passed, which Howard says will happen before Christmas [JURIST report]. AFP has more.

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