High-profile raids against two separate media outlets by Australian police have been widely condemned by news organisations and rights groups, renewing calls for greater protection of whistleblowers and journalists in the country.
The Australian Federal Police on Wednesday raided the Sydney offices of the national broadcaster ABC over stories it ran in 2017 exposing alleged war crimes by Australian special forces against civilians in Afghanistan, dubbed The Afghan Files.
David Anderson, the ABC’s managing director, said in a statement that “it is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way.” The search warrant was remarkably wide-reaching, allowing police to “add, copy, delete or alter” material on the ABC’s computer system.
“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defence matters,” Anderson said.
The operation at the ABC came a day after police raided the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, a print journalist with News Corp Australia. The warrant allowed authorities to search her home, phone and computer.
Smethurst last year reported that the government was considering allowing the Australian Signals Directorate, a spy agency, to secretly monitor citizens. Police said they were investigating “unauthorised disclosure of national security information”.
“If that [Smethurst’s story] isn’t in the highest public interest, then I don’t know what is,” Johan Lidberg, deputy head of journalism at Monash University, told Al Jazeera. “To then go after her source is cowardly.”