Police raid Australian Broadcasting Corporation over leak

Larry Hoffman
June 8, 2019

Australian police have raided the offices of public broadcaster ABC News in Sydney - over allegations it had published classified material.

This week, the Australian Federal Police raided the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst over a story she wrote more than a year ago. "Even the police union has been horrified at the words you said".

Yesterday morning, the AFP raided the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, a journalist with News Corp who reported the plans to potentially expand domestic surveillance of citizens.

"It is quite frankly I think outrageous that seven officers spent seven-and-a-half hours in her home, going through everything throughout her home, in the kitchen, in all of the rooms", he said about the raid on Smethurst's home.

In a statement, the AFP said there was no link between the investigations other than both being alleged breaches of the Crimes Act for the publication of classified material.

The newspaper report quoting home affairs department advice earned an extraordinary rebuke from Australia's top spy chief for misrepresenting the advice as coming from Asio.

"The Federal Police have an obligation to investigate a matter that's been referred to them".

"This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters", he said.

"Attacks on public interest whistleblowers and the free press drive at the heart of our democracy", said Emily Howie, a legal director at Australia's Human Rights Law Centre.

The police action was also criticized by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Australia's media union, which said that the raids "are about intimidating journalists and media organisations due to their truth-telling".

Since the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States, more than 64 pieces of legislation had been passed with bipartisan support, which had created a "huge chilling effect", said Lidberg.

"We call on the Australian government to make it clear that there will be no punitive action taken against the journalists and media organisations involved in these operations, and that no similar action will be taken without just cause in future".

The AFP has left the door open to carrying out further raids as part of its investigations.

Peter Greste, director of the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom, said the raids were a serious issue for Australians, who he said care deeply about press freedom.

He vowed to continue reporting on national security and intelligence issues.

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