Shameless attack on freedom of the press

5 June 2019

"The Australian Federal Police raid on the ABC this morning confirms this is the chosen week for a shameless attack on freedom of the press in this country," Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick said today.

"Coming just one day after the raid on News Corporation journalist, Annika Smethurst, the execution of a search warrant at the headquarters of our national broadcaster can only be viewed as a direct assault on public interest journalism relating to national security issues."

"US President Trump cries ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like scrutiny. Scott Morrison’s government sends in the coppers."

"The ABC’s July 2017 reports of allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan clearly constituted public interest journalism," Senator Patrick said. "These very serious matters deserved public exposure, however much the Defence Department might have wanted to avoid scrutiny."

"These reports, and those of Ms Smethurst had no impact on national security; rather they exposed embarrassing and ugly matters governments preferred to keep hidden."

"It is more than curious that the Federal Police waited until after the federal election, and in the case of the ABC nearly two years after the reports had been broadcast, before executing search warrants."

"There is no doubt that Coalition Ministers and senior bureaucrats have no love of media scrutiny. While they disclaim any responsibility, they are clearly happy to see the Federal Police unleashed after the election in order to intimidate the media at the beginning of the new Parliament."

"The overall trend has been clear for some time with the Government clearly working up a suppression trifecta: routinely obstruction and delaying freedom of Information applications; persecuting whistleblowers such as Witness K and Richard Boyle, and now using the police to intimidate journalists."

"Although the Federal Police always claim to be apolitical, they are very clearly acting in a highly political manner to close down journalistic scrutiny of national security issues."

"These heavy-handed tactics must be subjected to rigorous and exhaustive scrutiny. The AFP, the Departments of Home Affairs and Defence, and Coalition Government Ministers can expect some hard questions from Centre Alliance in the Senate when the Parliament reconvenes."

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