A police search of Australian public broadcaster ABC was in connection to an article about possible war crimes in Afghanistan. It was the second such raid in Australia against high-profile journalists in as many days.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday over a 2017 investigative report based on leaked military documents. The story from Australia's national public broadcaster concerned possible war crimes committed by forces in Afghanistan.
"It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way," ABC Managing Director David Anderson said. "This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters."
The raid on ABC's Sydney offices came one day after the AFP searched the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, political editor for the Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, in connection to a 2018 article about an alleged government plan to spy on civilians.
The Sunday Telegraph, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's sprawling News Corp. empire, said that the raid on Smethurst's home "demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths."
Officers have said the two searches were not connected to the same case. They said the Sydney raid was "in relation to allegations of publishing classified material, contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act 1914."
'A disturbing attempt' at intimidation
The Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance union called the events a "disturbing attempt to intimidate legitimate news journalism that is in the public interest."
"Police raiding journalists is becoming normalized and it has to stop... it seems that when the truth embarrasses the government, the result is the Federal Police will come knocking at your door."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison distanced himself from the raids, saying they were a police matter.
"Australia believes strongly in the freedom of the press and we have clear rules and protections for the freedom of the press," he said.
es/sms (AP, AFP)