5 June 2019
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has condemned the raids on journalists by the Australian Federal Police.
NSW CCL President Pauline Wright said “Today, the Australian Federal Police raided the ABC office. Yesterday, they raided the office of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Two raids in two days cannot be a coincidence. We are witnessing what amounts to a state crackdown on journalism. It strikes at the heart of the freedom and independence of the press, which are a cornerstone of democracy."
“It is hard to imagine a single journalist who will not now hesitate before reporting on important public interest stories if they think they will be subject to this kind of action, presaging prosecution, by the authorities."
“These heavy-handed raids underline that the time has come for Australia to enshrine important freedoms and rights in a Federal charter of rights and a Human Rights Act for NSW."
“Ms Smethurst’s home was raided in relation to a story from April 2018, showing the Department of Home Affairs and Defence Department were secretly considering giving the Australian Signals Directorate powers to spy on Australains. The ABC was raided in relation to stories from 2017, called the Afghan Files, exposing allegations of unlawful killing and other misconduct by Australian forces."
“These stories were based on leaks, and the telling of them is in the public interest. The fact that they are over a year old makes the timing of the raids suspicious.”
“The Attorney-General Christian Porter has indicated that the point of the raid on Ms Smethurst’s home was to target her source and was not directed at her as a journalist. Yet the effect is the criminalisation of journalism, and the intimidation of journalists. In a liberal democracy like Australia, the police should not be raiding the offices or homes of journalists.for the ‘crime’ of public interest journalism,” said Wright.
“Instead, in the interests of transparent government that Australian citizens have a right to expect, measures should be taken to protect whistle-blowers who make public interest disclosures about government conduct as appears to be the case in these instances and in the prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, whose disclosure related to the illegal bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet.”
Contacts in relation to this statement
0418 292 656