The front page of The Sydney Morning Herald. Picture: Twitter

Canberra - Australia's major newspapers have published blacked-out front pages on Monday as part of a unified campaign calling on the conservative government to better protect freedom of the press. 

The front pages depicted a heavily redacted government document to show the level of censorship, alongside a media campaign asking to change laws that criminalize journalism and whistleblowing. 

The Sydney Morning Herald called for "significant law reform to stop the suppression of information," while The Australian newspaper pointed to a "sustained attack on the rights of journalists."

Nineteen media organizations and journalist unions joined forces in the "Your Right to Know" campaign against the government's heavy-handedness in June after federal police raids at a public broadcaster's office and a reporter's house in search of leaked government documents.



The campaign calls for six key legal changes, including the right to contest search warrants and a regime that limits which documents can be marked "secret." 

The media groups on Monday warned against creeping laws that allow government and bureaucrats to cover-up scandals and hide or restrict information.

The media coalition said that more than 60 new laws have been put in place over the past 20 years, which effectively criminalize journalism and penalize whistleblowing.

"Australia is at risk of becoming the world's most secretive democracy," David Anderson, managing director of national broadcaster ABC, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Australian Federal Police chief Reece Kershaw told a Senate committee investigating the raids and press freedom on Monday that they are reviewing the handling of sensitive investigations. 

dpa