News Corp, ABC to challenge legality of police raids

Reuters, SYDNEY

Tue, Jun 25, 2019 - Page 6

Australia’s state broadcaster and the media company News Corp yesterday said they would challenge the legality of recent police raids on their staff, describing it as unconstitutional and a threat to media freedom.

The Australian Federal Police raided the home of a News Corp editor and the head office of the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) on successive days this month, prompting an outcry from the media and opposition politicians.

The police and the news organizations said at the time the raids were in connection with reports alleging troop misconduct in Afghanistan and unrealized plans to let the nation’s intelligence forces snoop on Australians’ e-mails, text messages and bank accounts.

ABC managing director David Anderson yesterday said the state-funded broadcaster had applied to the Federal Court to declare the search warrant invalid and demand the return of seized files.

The challenge would rely on legal grounds that “underline the fundamental importance of investigative journalism and protection of confidential sources,” Anderson said.

“We are also challenging the constitutional validity of the warrant on the basis that it hinders our implied freedom of political communication,” he said.

The ABC wanted the police to be banned from accessing the seized material, which is being stored in sealed envelopes, and to return it immediately.

News Corp also planned a legal challenge against the validity of the raids, the News Corp-owned newspaper the Australian said yesterday.

A News Corp spokeswoman confirmed the plan, but declined to comment further.

A police spokesman declined to comment on the issue when contacted by Reuters.

The ABC said it expected a court hearing about the raid on its office would take place next month or in August.