For four years now, Australia has been sending a message out to the world: "If you come to Australia illegally by boat, there is no way you will make Australia home."

The refugees who cannot be turned or towed back are taken into custody. Since the so-called processing centres on the islands of Manus and Nauru opened in 2012, nearly 2,000 people have been held there and only 60 have made it out.

There are extraordinary barriers to getting information out about the Australia's Immigration Detention System. I've never been able to get to the Manus island detention centre or the Nauru one, and to be honest, I probably never will. If I ever set foot on Nauru, they'd probably arrest me on sight. It has essentially been a media blackout.

Paul Farrell, co-founder, Detention Logs

In those four years, not a single journalist has made it in.

Australia's offshore 'processing centres' for asylum seekers are shrouded in secrecy and are completely off limits to the media.

Permission to visit the island centres is almost non-existent - some journalists have even reported being chased away at gunpoint after arriving in Papua New Guinea.

Journalists rely on news that has trickled out of the camps for information.

But penalties for the whistle-blowers feeding stories to journalists are stiff, reinforcing the media blackout shrouding the asylum centres and the macabre stories about treatment of refugees within. 

The Australian Federal Police have been known to spend hours researching, intimidating and harassing journalists who have worked with whistle-blowers in order to reveal their sources.

Under the new Australian Border Force Act, the consequences have reached further heights with jail terms being handed out to offending journalists.

But journalists are still trying to tell Australia's refugee policy story and people on the inside are still blowing the whistle.

Talking us through the story are: Mark Davis, investigative reporter; Paul Farrell, reporter for The Guardian Australia; Paul Murphy, CEO Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance; and Madeline Gleeson, refugee lawyer and author of Offshore: Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru.

Source: Al Jazeera