Tuesday, 20 August, 2019

New Zealand media condemn police raids on Australian broadcaster ABC

Australian authorities search through items in Annika Smethurst’s kitchen Australian authorities search through items in Annika Smethurst’s kitchen
Patty Aguilar | 07 June, 2019, 11:46

Officers spent eight hours inside the ABC's Sydney headquarters on Wednesday over a series of investigative stories exposing special forces misconduct in Afghanistan.

The ABC's chair has told the Federal Government she has grave concerns over this week's police raid on the national broadcaster.

Officers carried out a search warrant at the Sydney headquarters of the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) in Sydney, the Australian Federal Police said.

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

"This police raid against our partners at ABC is an attack on press freedom which we at the BBC find deeply troubling", the BBC said in a statement.

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. "There have been occasions where police have search warrants and they've gone into newsrooms and said we need to have this information because it is a clear national security threat". "There are criminal allegations being investigated and we can not ignore them". "This is not just about the media, this is about the public's right to know", Lyons said.

Police initially said the raids were in relation to alleged crimes of leaking classified information, suggesting media that received any such information would not be affected.

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"We stand by Annika and we will not resile from our campaign to protect the public's right to know about important decisions governments are making that can and will impact ordinary Australian citizens", Michael Miller, News Corp Australasia executive chairman, said in a statement.

"Australia believes strongly in the freedom of the press and we have clear rules and protections for the freedom of the press", the leader told Australian the media from the United Kingdom, where he is taking part in the commemoration of the D-day landings in Normandy.

ABC reports documented at least 10 incidents between 2009 and 2013 where Australian troops shot dead unarmed men and children.

"Remember the fundamental issue here is that journalists were telling about the problems and potential problems with people misbehaving inside government", Wilkinson said. "I think it's disgraceful for the prime minister and other senior members of the government to claim that they're arm's length from these activities", he said.

A fourth factor is that Australia is alone among the "Five Eyes" countries that make up the West's main intelligence network in having no constitutional protection for freedom of the press.

"These raids were conducted under the legislation which this government pushed through parliament previous year and other legislation passed earlier on which has seriously eroded the freedoms and protections of the media". But what happens when things go wrong?

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