Recent raids into ABC’s Sydney Headquarters, and Canberra home of New Corp Australia reporter, has sparked politically charged debates on freedom of the press, and the necessary protections needed for journalists in Australia.
And places free press as the cornerstone in Australia’s democratic system and it is with this in mind that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ABC’s Chair Ita Buttrose will prepare to meet this afternoon.
Protests are planned outside the office of federal communications minister Paul Fletcher following raids by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on the ABC’s Sydney headquarters.
The public broadcaster’s chair Ita Buttrose is also weighing legal options over the raids ahead of a planned meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday afternoon.
Ms Buttrose last week complained to Mr Fletcher of the ‘sweeping nature’ of the AFP warrant ‘clearly designed to intimidate’.
The raid came off the back of stories published by the ABC in 2017 alleging Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.
This, along with another raid on the Canberra home of a News Corp Australia reporter, has sparked a political debate in Australia over the freedom of the press and protections for journalists.
Senior Coalition minister Mathias Cormann says the government is open to a debate about press freedom and how it interacts with Australia’s national security laws.
‘We’re open to the discussion, what form that will take is yet to be determined,’ he told ABC Radio National.
But Labor frontbencher Penny Wong says such an inquiry needs to be ‘full, frank and transparent’ and not act as a cover for the government if it doesn’t want to move on the issues.
‘If we are proposing to look at this carefully we should do so with goodwill,’ she told ABC Radio’s AM.
‘We should do this with the willingness to actually ensure that we get it right and the process of the parliamentary inquiry enables that to occur.’
Labor had consistently tried to amend laws to ensure there was an appropriate balance between press freedom and national security, Senator Wong added.
Ms Buttrose says the broadcaster has consulted lawyers about its options and would ensure it is ‘in the strongest available position to defend ourselves’ and its journalists.
The ABC has two weeks to appeal the warrant and seek the return of the documents. But if an appeal is unsuccessful or does not go ahead the AFP would be allowed to examine the documents.
A protest rally in support of the ABC will be held on Tuesday outside Mr Fletcher’s electorate office on the upper north shore of Sydney.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP