Federal Police to front parliament committee over media raids

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 7 June 2019

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will face a parliamentary committee over its raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist’s home.

Liberal minister Craig Kelly, who chairs parliament’s joint committee on law enforcement, told The Guardian the committee will ask the AFP to explain its decision to carry out the raids when parliament resumes in July.

Since the raids were carried out, the AFP has updated its statement to clarify that the search warrants were related to Part 6 and 7 of the Crimes Act 1914.

Including section seven of the Crimes Act means anyone that receives or publishes a secret document could face charges which carry a maximum seven years imprisonment.

The searches have raised alarm from the Australian media, with many warning about its implications on a free press.

In a statement, Ita Buttrose, ABC chair, described the raid on its office as unprecedented, telling the minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts Paul Fletcher it was “designed to intimidate".

“It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account,” Buttrose says.

Buttrose said Fletcher declined to provide assurance that the ABC will not be subjected to future raids of the same nature.

“While there are legitimate matters of national security that the ABC will always respect, the ABC Act and Charter are explicit about the importance of an independent public broadcaster to Australian culture and democracy,” Buttrose added.

“In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.

“The onus must always be on the public’s right to know. If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.

“As ABC chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public. Independence is not exercised by degrees. It is absolute.”

 

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