ABC raid: Australia police search headquarters of public broadcaster

ABC raid: Australia police search headquarters of public broadcaster

Police haven't ruled out laying charges following back-to-back raids this week involving two media outlets.

"It's apparent that that is possible", shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus said when asked in an ABC interview if the change in the police statement meant journalists could go to jail.

Smethurst said while she is a fairly hardened journalist who is not easily rattled, the raid on her home was a really "off-putting experience" - particularly the search of her technological devices.

The police action was also criticized by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Australia's media union, which said that the raids "are about intimidating journalists and media organisations due to their truth-telling".

ABC Executive Editor John Lyons said the search warrant demands access to reporters' handwritten notes, emails, story drafts, footage and passwords, among other things.

"This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defence matters", he said.

The AFP officers who raided Annika Smethurst's home left no stone unturned, searching top to bottom in what the News Corp journalist described as an "uncomfortable" invasion of privacy.

"Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking hard questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface. To have Federal Police officers - and it is not their fault - combing through people's books and sock drawers is a pretty dim image for Australia to have in the 21st century", he said. They seek to punish those that tell Australians the truth.

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"It is quite frankly I think outrageous that seven officers spent seven-and-a-half hours in her home, going through everything throughout her home, in the kitchen, in all of the rooms", he said about the raid on Smethurst's home.

"What we're seeing here is no-one in the government being prepared to defend the role that media has in our democracy, which is essential", he said.

Police searched the political editor for News Corp's Sunday papers apartment, computer and mobile phone after arriving with a warrant from an ACT magistrate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the raid and told journalists the upholding of Australian laws "never troubles" him.

Dutton denied involvement in the police investigations and said his office was notified after the raids were carried out.

The raids came barely two weeks after Australia's conservative government won a May 18 election it was widely expected to lose, and which nearly cost Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton his seat.

"At a time when the media is becoming less free across the world, it is highly worrying if a public broadcaster is being targeted for doing its job of reporting in the public interest", added a statement from the BBC.

Elsewhere the raids drew worldwide news coverage and were roundly condemned by press freedom and civil liberties groups.

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