Australia public broadcaster head concerned by police raid

In this Wednesday, June 5, 2019, photo, police officers stand in front of a television screen at the main entrance to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. building in Sydney. The head of Australia’s public broadcaster said Friday, June 7, she has “grave concern” about a recent police raid on the corporation’s headquarters in connection with a 2017 story based on leaked documents that indicated the country’s military forces were being investigated for possible war crimes in Afghanistan. (David Gray/AAP Image via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The head of Australia’s public broadcaster ABC said she has “grave concern” about a recent police raid on the corporation’s headquarters in connection with a 2017 story based on leaked documents that indicated the country’s military forces were being investigated for possible war crimes in Afghanistan.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. Chair Ita Buttrose said the raid Wednesday in Sydney was “clearly designed to intimidate.”

Buttrose said Friday she had a “frank conversation” with a government minister and that, “As ABC chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster.”

The Sydney raid, in which documents were taken, came a day after federal police searched the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, the political editor of The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.

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.”

There were no arrests in either raid. Australian law forbids officials from disclosing secret information, and the police warrants in both raids were based on a law enacted in 1914.

Police said in a statement that the two raids were not linked.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ABC raid was a matter of police “soberly and calmly” enforcing the law.

“What is important here is two things: the government is committed to press freedom … (and) the government is absolutely committed to ensure that no one is above the law.”

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.

“We will be doing everything we can to limit the scope of this and we will do everything we can to stand by our reporters and as a general observation, we always do whatever we can to stand by our sources of course,” ABC Editorial Director Craig McMurtrie said.

ABC is a client of The Associated Press.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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