The Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney office of Australia’s public broadcasting company on Wednesday.
The search is believed to be in connection to a 2017 article published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which detailed potential war crimes, including the killing of children and unarmed men, by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, reports the New York Times. The article was based on leaked military documents.
John Lyons, Executive Editor of ABC News and its Head of Investigative Journalism, gave a play-by-play on his Twitter account, including photos of the police search warrant, an update on ABC’s lawyer’s attempts to push back and photos of the police reviewing ABC emails on a large screen in what appears to be a conference room.
David Anderson, ABC’s Managing Director issued a statement saying the raid raised serious concerns about freedom of the press, and reaffirming ABC’s supports for its journalists.
“The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favor on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest,” said the statement.
The Times reports that it is illegal for government officials to disclose classified information, which allows the police to investigate, and although journalists do have some legal defense related to protecting sources, courts are able to overrule those protections if it is in the public interest.
The search comes a day after the police searched the home, computer and mobile phone of journalist Annika Smethurst, a politics editor for several of News Corp’s publications, including the Sunday Telegraph and the Herald Sun, in relation to a 2018 story which exposed the government’s consideration of a plan to spy on citizens.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the search of Smethurt’s apartment as “intimidation” which “poses a great threat to journalists’ independence and to respect for the confidentiality of their sources.”
Australia was ranked 21 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.