Federal Police raid on the ABC threatens press freedom
June 7, 2019
In a concerning week for Australian media, the Federal Police have raided ABC headquarters in Sydney, along with the home of a News Corp journalist, in relation to the exposure of government secrets.
The raid on the ABC came in connection to The Afghan Files, a series of investigative stories published in 2017 which detail allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan.
These allegations arose based on documents leaked to the ABC.
‘We don’t think we’ve done anything unlawful in publishing
these stories,’ said ABC Managing Director David Anderson, adding that it was ‘highly
unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way.’
is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the
press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,’ he
ABC stands by its journalists, 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 raid lasted eight hours, with hundreds of files being seized
by Federal Police.
In the same week, AFP officers also raided the home of News
Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, who last year reported on secret plans to
allow government spying.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance president Marcus
Strom described the raids as ‘disturbing’.
‘These raids are all about intimidating journalists and
intimidating whistle blowers so that mistakes made by the Government, including
potential crimes by the military, remain covered up, remain secret, and don’t
fall in to the public domain.’
In a statement, ABC Chair Ita Buttrose has pledged to defend
the ABC and freedom of the press, referring to the raids as ‘unprecedented’.
‘It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this
week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a
blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life
uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark
corners and holding the powerful to account,’ she said.
‘As ABC Chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the
national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public.’
You, too, can have your say. There is currently a petition calling for a Media Freedom Act, which will help protect press freedom. You can sign the petition here.