Police raids on Aussie media fuel calls for journalist protections

Federal police have raided ABC offices in Sydney

The Australian Federal Police raided the ABC Sydney offices in relation to a story broadcast in 2017 about Australia's elite special forces in Afghanistan and allegations about the unlawful killing of civilians.

Police have raided the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), in a second day of searches targeting journalists.

"This police raid against our partners at ABC is an attack on press freedom which we at the BBC find deeply troubling", the BBC said in a statement.

The Sunday Telegraph, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's sprawling News Corp. empire, said that the raid on Smethurst's home "demonstrates a risky act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths".

The government declined at the time to comment on the leaked documents, and the plan was reportedly scrapped by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull - a moderate who was ousted in a party coup in August by more hardline conservatives.

Australian journalists could face jail for holding classified information, authorities and lawmakers said on Thursday, as police appeared to broaden the scope of their investigation after raids on two media organizations. "Following the execution of each search warrant on June 4 and June 5 respectively, my office was informed that search warrants had been executed", he said.

"I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly created to intimidate", she said in a statement.

The federal government is attempting to distance itself from two police raids on journalists in as many days, while questions arise over the scope of press freedom in Australia.

Oakes and Clark have both been named in AFP search warrants, along with Gaven Morris, the ABC's director of news, analysis, and investigations.

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ABC said it stood by its journalists, would protect its sources and continue to report "without fear or favor" on national security and intelligence issues.

The raids have sparked outrage from journalists and watchdog groups.

Since 2014, Australia has enacted a series of laws, which criminalize the disclosure of information linked to state interests, classify new crimes of espionage and allow access to the meta-data of citizens, among others.

Asked whether he would be comfortable if that happened, the Home Affairs minister suggested the priority was the leaking of highly classified documents.

ABC News executive editor and head of investigative journalism John Lyons has flanked officers throughout the raids so far and has Tweeted about his experience.

The prime minister, who returned from an overseas trip on Friday night, expects she will express similar sentiments when they next meet. The AFP later added that the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, was not notified prior to the execution of the warrants.

"We're concerned obviously about a chilling effect it has on freedom of the press", he said.

She said the "unprecedented" police operations were "clearly created to intimidate".

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