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Australian Federal Police Raid Even More Journalists Over Leaked Documents

Published: June 8, 2019
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Source: Tech Dirt

Australia got scary in a hurry.

One day after raiding the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst over the publication of leaked documents detailing the government's domestic surveillance plans, the Australian Federal Police raided ABC News Australia over leaked documents detailing the killing of unarmed civilians by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

Somewhat surprisingly, the AFP did not prevent John Lyons, the executive editor of ABC News, from live-tweeting the entire raid. This resulted in an astounding stream of tweets (with photos!) showing the AFP was seeking a wealth of information from ABC offices, including notes, correspondence, reports, briefing documents, photographs, and anything else it could use to (presumably) find the source of the leaks.

The AFP claims the raid of the ABC offices has nothing to do with its raid of a journalist's home the previous day. This is only true in the sense that two different sets of leaks were targeted. In the greater scheme of things, they are very definitely related, as is the investigation currently being pursued by the Department of Home Affairs targeting yet another journalist over a story about asylum seekers seeking to enter Australia by boat.

Journalists all over the world are shocked by the Australian government's actions, which directly threaten press freedom in that country. The continuing expansion of its national security powershave reduced the rights of the country's citizens. These powers are on full public display, being utilized in an incredibly damaging way.

The head of the Home Affairs office seems less than concerned about the destruction of rights and freedoms happening in the country he's supposed to be protecting.

A later statement from the AFP said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was "not notified prior to the execution of the warrants".

"The AFP's actions have been independent and impartial at all times," it said.

"When the AFP receives referrals it assesses them for criminality and does not make value judgements on the issue instead identifying whether there has been any contraventions of Commonwealth Law, and when [sic] evidence as to whether the offence has been committed or otherwise."

This bit of bureaucracy speech isn't nearly as alarming as the statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who characterized the no-longer-theoretical threat to journalism as solid policework.

Asked if the news troubled him, he said: “It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

That's how those up top feel about running leak investigations through the offices and houses of Australian journalists. There's apparently nothing wrong with destroying a private sector instrument of government accountability in the name of national security.

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