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SYDNEY (AP) – Australia’s tarnished reputation as a bastion of press freedom came under further attack on Tuesday, with media executives telling a parliamentary inquiry there are many laws that criminalize journalism in a country plagued by an air of official secrecy.

The comments came at the start of an inquiry into press freedom by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that was called following high-profile raids on media outlets by the Australian Federal Police in June.

A dozen senior executives from Australia’s major news organizations presented a united front at the Sydney hearing, demanding changes to national security laws to protect journalists.

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said Australia has “many laws that criminalize journalism” and which are “creating a secret society that most Australians would not recognize as our own.”

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