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Police raid on ABC was valid, court rules

February 17, 2020

A 2019 police search of the ABC was in connection to stories it produced about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. The broadcaster says the ruling "a blow to democracy" and "should send a chill down our spines."

A policeman standing outside the ABC
Image: Imago Images/AAP

An Australian court ruled Monday that a police raid on public broadcaster ABC's offices last year was legal.

In June 2019, the federal police carried out a surprise search at the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over investigative stories it produced two years earlier on allegations of unlawful killings committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. The reports were based on leaked defense documents.

The ABC contested the legality of the raid and demanded the return of seized files.

Burden of proof

However, that challenge was dismissed by Federal Court Judge Wendy Abraham, who said the the media organization had failed to prove the police search warrant was invalid.

The broadcaster responded by describing the court's decision as  "a blow to democracy."

"It's clear that the way public-interest journalism is able to be undertaken in this country is a mess," ABC News director Gaven Morris said.

"I think fundamentally the court has ruled the police has the right to enter a newsroom and fossick (rummage) around in confidential files. This should send a chill down all our citizens' spines."

Australian police have defended the raids, saying the search warrants related to "national security information" which could potentially pose a "grave danger to the national interest."

jsi/nm (EFE, dpa)

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