Australian police raids on national broadcaster, News Corp prompt outcry

Australian police raids on national broadcaster, News Corp prompt outcry

The search of Annika Smethurst's home, purporting to her 2018 report about a government plan to spy on Australian citizens, was branded "outrageous and heavy-handed" and "a risky act of intimidation" by her employer, the multinational media company News Corp.

In a statement ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the police raid "raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press".

"In a frank conversation with the minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly created to intimidate".

News Corp. said the raid on the home of its political editor, Annika Smethurst, was prompted by a 2018 report about plans for surveillance of Australians' emails, text messages and bank records.

ABC reported that the raids were related to The Afghan Files, a series of 2017 government leaks published by the ABC.

The stories, by ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

The police seized several documents but agreed to seal them for two weeks in order to give the ABC time to appeal the warrant, he added.

The AFP said in a statement that they executed a search warrant on the ABC headquarters in relation to "allegations of publishing classified material", which would constitute a criminal offense. Publishing leaked documents will get your home raided by the feds in Australia.

"There are insufficient safeguards to prevent law-enforcement agencies from using these powers to expose journalists' confidential sources", said Emily Howie, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre.

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"The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest", he said.

Australian law forbids officials from disclosing secret information, and the police warrants in both raids were based on a law enacted in 1914.

Her employer News Corp Australia, which publishes several of the country's most-read newspapers, condemned the raid as "outrageous and heavy-handed".

"I had no idea it was going to happen, and that's because these matters are totally independent of the executive government", he told ABC's Radio National before the broadcaster's offices were targeted. In a surprise result, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was returned to office.

Shadow home affairs minister, the Labor party's Kristina Keneally, demanded an explanation for why the raids occurred.

Mr Morrison said the government was committed to press freedom as well as ensuring that no one is above the law.

The raids have been widely panned by the ABC, News Corp, the media union, press freedom advocates and the federal opposition.

News Corp, controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch, called the raid "outrageous and heavy-handed" and "a unsafe act of intimidation".