Leading journalists and academics are warning the federal government's pursual of war crimes whistleblower David McBride could have serious implications on the reporting of scandals in the public interest.
The former Australian Army lawyer is awaiting trial after leaking documents to the ABC on alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australian special forces troops.
The reports triggered an inquiry by Justice Brereton into the claims in 2016, which delivered its findings four years later.
It confirmed the allegations that 25 Australian soldiers had unlawfully murdered 39 civilians and prisoners in the Central Asian country were credible.
Decorated foreign correspondent Professor Peter Greste, who will speak at a university panel on McBride's case on Tuesday evening, said he was concerned a government win would set a dangerous precedent.
He said the passing of countless national security laws designed to protect Australians were ultimately undermining our desire for a free and open society.
"Any legal system that makes it a crime to blow the whistle on war crimes, is a system that has lost sight of the real purpose of the law," Professor Greste said.
"McBride's case is helpful because it shows the insidious ways in which the security state dangerously undermines human rights and democratic accountability."
Mr McBride was charged with five offences in 2018, including theft of Commonwealth property, unauthorised disclosure of information, and breaches of the Defence Act.
The charges against Mr McBride were laid after he leaked documents to the ABC two years earlier, regarding allegations of war crimes committed by members of the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan.
The information he supplied to ABC journalist Dan Oakes, which formed the basis of the series titled The Afghan Files, was classified, sparking a number of raids by federal police.
Last month a pre-trial hearing of his case was delayed by more than a year due to COVID-19 disruptions and complications arising from the secretive nature of the case.
University of Queensland national security expert Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, who will join Professor Greste on the Tuesday evening panel, said the two decades after the September 11 terrorist attacks had led government to move away from transparency and towards secrecy.
The National Security Information Act was introduced to permit classified documents as evidence but away from the public's eyes.
While the laws have been used in terrorism trials, they have also allowed the trial, sentencing and imprisonment of 'Witness J' - a former intelligence agent - to be conducted in complete secrecy.
She expected large parts of McBride's trial would also be kept secret from the public.
"Even McBride and his lawyers may have no access, or have limited access, to evidence the judge will base their decision on," she said.
"That is a disturbing scenario in any system committed to open and fair justice.
"It demands careful scrutiny to ensure that anything that can be safely made public is made public - with so many people shut out of the courtroom, much of that responsibility rests on the individual judge."
The academic's comments follow a speech made by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Monday to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Ms Andrews said the federal government had passed 22 national security laws since 2014 when the terrorism threat level was first raised to "probable".
"We will continue to counter violent extremism in all its forms before an attack takes place; maintaining our social cohesion and celebrating diversity and inclusion, where terrorists try to divide and sow fear," she said.
"And we will continue to give our law enforcement and security agencies the powers and authorities they need to respond to the terrorists and violent extremists who would do us harm."
The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Grant Donaldson announced in March this year he would review the national security law enabling the secret trial of Witness J.
Mr Donaldson said information pertaining to why the former Commonwealth official with a high level security clearance had been imprisoned after a secret case should not have been withheld from public scrutiny in a June hearing.
Additional information on the summary of the case after being reviewed by the government and consistent with the court's orders was released in June.
Mr Donaldson told the hearing there was no reason this information couldn't have been published at the time when he was prosecuted by an ACT court three years earlier.
"In this matter, the orders that were made were ultimately able to be published and there's no particular reason why, in my opinion, they could not have been published much earlier than they were," he said.
He has flagged he would also consider looking at the Bernard Collaery and Witness K's whistleblowing case in the future.
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