The fallout from the federal police raid on the ABC offices continues to grow.
Australians are shocked that this could happen in their own country. The Morrison government is in damage control, denying all knowledge or involvement. Labor is on the attack, trying to steer the blame back onto the government.
But it is your right to know the truth that’s really under attack here. The truth about what your government, using your tax money, does when it thinks no one is watching.
In the latest development, the ABC and federal police officers have agreed to a two-week hiatus in which a search warrant served to the national broadcaster during a raid on its Sydney offices can be challenged.
Wednesday’s raid in Ultimo was a result of ABC News reports in 2017 that revealed Australian defence personnel may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
It came a day after AFP officers searched the Canberra home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
The BBC issued a statement on Wednesday evening, labelling the raid an ‘attack on press freedom which we at the BBC find deeply troubling’.
‘At a time when the media is becoming less free across the world, it is highly worrying if a public broadcaster is being targeted for doing its job of reporting in the public interest.’
ABC head of investigative journalism John Lyons on Wednesday said he’d ‘never seen an assault on the media as savage as this one we’re seeing today’.
The warrant — targeting reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark as well as news director Gaven Morris — allowed the AFP ‘to not just take and seize but to delete and to change official ABC documents’, Lyons told ABC TV.
The ABC assisted forensic digital officers in sorting through the material but could yet refuse to hand over any documents and instead contest the warrant in court.
The ABC’s lawyers took out many documents on the basis of legal privilege, Lyons posted on Twitter.
AFP officers had left the ABC’s Ultimo offices by just after 8:30pm on Wednesday, after both parties agreed to a two-week hiatus.
During this time, any documents which are handed over under the warrant can be challenged, or the entire warrant can be challenged, Lyons posted.
The ABC and AFP agreed on documents which fit the warrant.
These were sealed and the AFP is not allowed to open the documents for two weeks, which gives the ABC ‘time to challenge,’ Lyons posted.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he had no involvement in the AFP investigations and his office was only informed after the two warrants were executed.
The AFP insisted there was ‘no link’ between the ABC and Smethurst raids and confirmed Mr Dutton ‘was not notified prior to the execution of the warrants’.
‘Both, however, relate to separate allegations of publishing classified material contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security,’ an AFP spokesperson said.
In a statement, ABC managing director David Anderson said the raid ‘raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press’.
The ABC stood by its journalists, would protect its sources and continue to report ‘without fear or favour’ on national security and intelligence issues, he added.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP