Australia: Second police raid in two days disturbing new pattern emerging

Australia’s public broadcaster, ABC had its Sydney offices raided today by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers, the day after AFP raided the house of a News Corp senior political journalist. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance have condemned the raids and called on the government to take a stand to end the emerging pattern against press freedom.

AFP officers start to search through emails at ABC. Credit: Elise Worthington

On Wednesday morning, AFP officers served the ABC legal team with a warrant to search through email systems in relation to the people mentioned in the search warrant and were searching "data holdings" between April 2016 and July 2017. Three AFP IT officers are currently in the Sydney offices conducting the search. ABC reports that the raid is in relation to a series of stories published in 2017 called The Afghan Files. The stories, by ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and were based off hundreds of pages of secret Defence documents leaked to the ABC.

MEAA Media section president Marcus Strom: “A second day of raids by the Australian Federal Police sets a disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom. This is nothing short of an attack on the public’s right to know. These raids are about intimidating journalists and media organisations because of their truth-telling. They are about more than hunting down whistleblowers that reveal what governments are secretly doing in our name, but also preventing the media from shining a light on the actions of government.

“It is equally clear that the spate of national security laws passed by the Parliament over the past six years have been designed not just to combat terrorism but to persecute and prosecute whistleblowers who seek to expose wrongdoing. These laws seek to muzzle the media and criminalise legitimate journalism. They seek to punish those that tell Australians the truth,” he said.

The ABC raids come after News Corp senior political reporter Annika Smethurst’s house was raided by AFP officers on Tuesday over an April 2018 report she wrote about a top secret government proposal. On Tuesday evening, journalist and radio presenter Ben Fordham reported that he had been contacted by AFP regarded a story he shared on his radio program about asylum seekers.

IFJ president Philippe Leruth said: "I strongly condemn the repeated harassment of journalists in Australia as infringements of press freedom. Secret of sources is the corner stone of press freedom and press freedom is a key element of democracy where access to documents is requested from authorities. Journalists are not bound by any secret and their task is to inform the public which has the right to information according to the universal Declaration of human rights, according to their own ethical codes. The IFJ strongly calls the Australian authorities to ensure press freedom and the Australian judicial and police authorities to respect the fundamental rights of journalists." 

IFJ Congress will discuss a resolution urging the Australian Government to take action to protect journalists and their sources.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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