Australian media and rights groups are crying foul after federal police raided the offices of a national broadcaster over allegations it had published classified material.
The raid Wednesday at the head office of the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Sydney came a day after police raided the home of a senior editor at The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Police say the two raids are unrelated, but News Corp. Australia, the parent company of The Sunday Telegraph, said the raid “demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.”
“It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said in a statement.
ABC said the raid on its office was in connection with stories it published in 2017 about alleged misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan. News Corp. said the raid on the home of its political editor, Annika Smethurst, was prompted by a 2018 report about plans for surveillance of Australians’ emails, text messages and bank records.
The police released a statement saying the raids “relate to separate allegations of publishing classified material, contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act of 1914, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”
The raids come just days after the conservative government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison was reelected. But Morrison on Wednesday tried to distance himself from the raids.
“Australia believes strongly in the freedom of the press, and we have clear rules and protections for the freedom of the press,” he said. “There are also clear rules protecting Australia’s national security, and everybody should operate in accordance with all of those laws passed by our parliament.”
Anderson didn’t see things the same way.
“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters,” he said.