Concern in Australia over police raids on media organisations

Newstalk ZB, AP ,
Publish Date
Sunday, 9 June 2019, 4:22PM

There has been "universal condemnation" at the actions undertaken by the Australia federal police against two media organisations.

The head of Australia's public broadcaster ABC said she has "grave concern" about a recent police raid on the corporation's headquarters in connection with a 2017 story based on leaked documents that indicated the country's military forces were being investigated for possible war crimes in Afghanistan.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. Chair Ita Buttrose said the raid Wednesday in Sydney was "clearly designed to intimidate."

Buttrose said Friday she had a "frank conversation" with a government minister and that, "As ABC chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster."

The Sydney raid, in which documents were taken, came a day after federal police searched the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, the political editor of The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.

News Corp. Australia, the parent company of The Sunday Telegraph, said the raid "demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths."

ABC host Michael Rowland told the Weekend Collective that the two raids has sparked fears over freedom of speech. 

He says that people feel it is not coincidental that the raids have come shortly after the Australia election. 

"There are many question marks raised over this. In terms of the ABC raids, there are question marks as a military lawyer has put his hand up and said he gave us the documents. The Federal Police know how we got the documents."

Rowland says that people feel that this may not have happened had the Liberal-led Coalition not won the election, but that both major parties have very similar views on national security.

"When you look at it more broadly, both parties are complicit in this, but we do have the Labor Party expressing its concern and calling for a wider review." 

There were no arrests in either raid. Australian law forbids officials from disclosing secret information, and the police warrants in both raids were based on a law enacted in 1914.

Police said in a statement that the two raids were not linked.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ABC raid was a matter of police "soberly and calmly" enforcing the law.

"What is important here is two things: the government is committed to press freedom ... (and) the government is absolutely committed to ensure that no one is above the law."

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