Widespread concern after Australian police media raids

07 Juin, 2019, 11:43 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • ABC,Australian media crackdown,Australian copy

The raids, which involved police examining some 9,000 computer files at the ABC, and sifting through the female News Corp editor's underwear drawer, according to media reports, have drawn criticism around the world with the British Broadcasting Corporation calling them "deeply troubling".

The ABC has protested over the raid.

The AFP said the ABC raid was in relation to allegations it had published classified material and followed a referral from the chief of the Australian Defence Force and a former acting defence secretary in 2017.

The ABC's chair, Ita Buttrose, has said raids by the federal police on its headquarters were "designed to intimidate" and warned the government she will fight "any attempts to muzzle" the national broadcaster.

Both the Australian media and its industry bodies have been quick to respond, warning of the implications the raids have on a free press.

Anderson said that Wednesday's raids raised "legitimate concerns over freedom of the press" adding that the ABC stood "by its journalists" and will 'protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest'.

The Canberra home of one of Australia's leading political journalists, News Corp Australia's Annika Smethurst, was raided by the AFP on Tuesday morning over a report in 2018 that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) could be given the power to spy on Australians. "They told me they had a warrant to search the property, once they realised I was home another two showed up".

Officers from the AFP raided the ABC offices in central Sydney yesterday.

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Police said they were investigating "unauthorised disclosure of national security information".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said he was not troubled by a federal police raid on the home Smethurst, arguing all Australians must abide by national security laws.

"What we're seeing here is no-one in the government being prepared to defend the role that media has in our democracy, which is essential", he said.

"It is quite frankly I think outrageous that seven officers spent seven-and-a-half hours in her home, going through everything throughout her home, in the kitchen, in all of the rooms", he said about the raid on Smethurst's home.

"I can only make the observation that the raids that took place occurred in accordance with Australia's laws and in accordance with an Australian Federal Police that acts independently of government ministers doing their job", he said.

"The AFP is a strong supporter of press freedom", he said on Thursday. But what happens when things go wrong?

"The raids this week highlight just how risky it is to expose government wrongdoing in Australia", said Emily Howie, a legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre.

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