Australian Federal Police Raid Journalist's Home Over Publication Of Leaked Documents
from the cool-cool-cool dept
The Australian government is using its considerable national security powers to discourage local journalists from reporting unflattering news. Publishing leaked documents will get your home raided by the feds in Australia. (Wait, I’m getting something in my earpiece… it appears this is not just an Australian phenomenon.)
The Australian federal police have raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst investigating the publication of a leaked plan to allow government spying on Australians.
On Tuesday police executed a warrant investigating the “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret” which they said had the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.
Her employer called it a “dangerous act of intimidation,” which is exactly what it is. The government may be claiming this is about protecting the nation, but if it has a problem with leakers, it should maybe take a look at its leakers first, rather than punish journalists for engaging in journalism. Or — and I’m just throwing this out there — maybe the government shouldn’t engage in secret domestic surveillance or other acts that would provoke public outrage if they were exposed.
Unfortunately, Australia really doesn’t have a shield law to protect journalists, leaving them only with the dubious option of defending “unauthorized disclosures” as being made in the public interest. Even if nothing comes of this, the message has been sent: publishing leaked documents will bring the heat — the kind of heat that leaves a chill everywhere it’s been.
The Australian government firmly — and with the force of law — believes anything it thinks should be secret should stay a secret. Smethurst wasn’t the only journalist targeted by the government for reporting on supposed secrets.
Just hours after the Australian Federal Police raided the home of high-profile journalist Annika Smethurst, broadcaster Ben Fordham has revealed he’s also being targeted for his reporting.
The 2GB Drive presenter and Sky News contributor revealed he was the subject of a probe over his story yesterday about six asylum seeker boats attempting to reach Australia.
An hour after his report went to air yesterday, his producer was contacted by an official from the Department of Home Affairs to advise the material was “highly confidential”.
“In other words, we weren’t supposed to know it,” Fordham told listeners today.
Right now, the investigation is the DHA’s. But it has already informed Sky News it will likely be turning this over to the federal police as a criminal investigation. That’s probably because Fordham has refused to cooperate with the Home Affairs investigation and name his source. I’m sure the AFP feels it can suss out the leak source by doing what it did to the News Corp journalist: raid their home and take all of their electronics.
The Australian government is pretending this is normal. The Prime Minister has refused to offer a coherent comment and the usual things are being said about national security by the agencies involved in these investigations. But the truth of the matter is this is not normal. According to the New York Times’ report on the raid, this is the first time in more than ten years the Australian government has gone after a journalist for publishing sensitive documents.
The AFP and DHA want it to appear normal, but it isn’t. They know it. And they’re counting on this combination of breezy national security platitudes and heavy-handed tactics to discourage further reporting on things the government would rather citizens remained blissfully unaware of.