Thu, Jun 06, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Australian media decry raids on ABC, News Corp

Reuters, SYDNEY

Media and security staff members are reflected in a window at the main entrance to the Australian Broadcasting Corp building in Sydney yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Australian police yesterday raided the offices of the national broadcaster over allegations that it had published classified material, the second raid on a media outlet in two days, prompting complaints of assaults on press freedom.

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.

Police raided the home of a News Corp editor on Tuesday, although they said the raids were unrelated.

The ABC said that the raid was over its 2017 reports about alleged misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan, while News Corp said that the raid at the editor’s home was related to a report last year about plans for surveillance of Australians’ e-mails, text messages and bank records.

“It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC managing director David Anderson said in a statement. “This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press, and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters.”

News Corp said the raid was “outrageous and heavy handed,” and “a dangerous act of intimidation.”

Police questioning of journalists is not new, but raids on two influential news organizations sparked warnings that national security was being used to justify curbs on whistle-blowing and reporting that might embarrass the government.

“There are insufficient safeguards to prevent law enforcement agencies from using these powers to expose journalists’ confidential sources,” Human Rights Law Centre legal director Emily Howie said.

The raids came barely two weeks after Australia’s conservative government won a May 18 election that it was widely expected to lose, and which almost cost Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton his seat.

The home affairs minister must authorize raids considered politically sensitive, according to guidelines on the police Web site.

Dutton denied involvement in the police investigations and said that his office was notified after the raids were carried out.

Both raids “relate to separate allegations of publishing classified material ... which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security,” police said.

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