Press Freedom Under Attack: Australian Police Raid Network for Exposing War Crimes in Afghanistan



this is democracy now I'm Amy Goodman with Juan Gonzalez we're in today's show in Australia where Press Freedom groups are sounding the alarm over a pair of police raids on journalists on Wednesday last week it's Australian Federal Police swept into the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney reviewing thousands of documents for information about a 2017 report that found Australia's Special Forces may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan ABC executive editor John Lyons spoke on his own network just minutes after police served a warrant naming a news director and the two reporters who broke the story they have downloaded 9214 documents I counted them and they are now going through them they've set up a huge screen and they're going through email by email it's quite extraordinary and I feel as a journalist I feel it's a real violation because these are emails between this particular journalist and his boss her boss its drafted scripts of stories I've never seen an assault on the media as savage as this one we're seeing today at the ABC and the chilling message is not so much for the journalists but it's also for the public Wednesday's raid on ABC that's again Australian Broadcasting Corporation came one day after police in Melbourne Australia raided the home of Anika Smith Hurst a reporter with the Herald Sun newspaper police served a warrant related to Schmitt Hurst reporting on a secret effort by an Australian intelligence service to expand its surveillance capabilities including against Australian nationals Australia's Acting Federal Police Commissioner Neil Gagan defended the raids saying journalists could face prison time for holding classified information no sector of the community should be immune for this type of activity or evidence collection more broadly this includes law enforcement itself the media or indeed even politicians more we're joined by two guests in Australia with us from Brisbane is Peter greste he is the nesco chair in journalism and communications University of Green of Queensland he's founding director of Alliance for journalist freedom he was imprisoned for over a year for 400 days in 2013 to 14 while covering the political crisis in Egypt and joining us from Perth Australia Joseph Fernandez is with US media law academic at Curtin University Australia's correspondent for reporters without borders we welcome you both to Democracy Now Joseph Fernandez let's begin with you lay out exactly what happened and when it took place all the details as you know them both the rating of ABC and the journalists home thank you for having me on your show the two raids happened within 48 hours of each other it began with a raid on a COS Methos home you have introduced her at her home the Australian Federal Police spent seven and a half hours going through every nook and cranny of her belongings including the rubbish bin outside the house and they sought to access email messages phone messages and anything they could lay their hands on including what she might have kept away in her undies drawer Anika obviously was very traumatized by this but she has held her head up high in the knowledge that the story about which she was being investigated was really something very arguably and very strongly in the public interest of legitimate public concern the second raid the following story was sorry can you say that sorry was Joseph the story was that there was a discussion a discussion about a plan to expand state surveillance that would have possibly included surveillance of ordinary citizens and this was quite an unprecedented idea and your objective or for such a plan was obviously going to be justified on the premise of protecting national security the second raid happened at the headquarters of the national broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney and police officers entered premises with a warrant with an exhaustive inventory of things that they were looking for and as you have noted they scoured hundreds and thousands of documents and materials and left with a small collection of materials in a sealed package with the agreement not to use them until a possible challenge is considered in the days ahead and Joseph Fernandez up these rates coming within a day of each other was there any coordination or worth were these related in any way that's an interesting question one of the first questions that sprung into people's minds was whether they were related whether this was instigated by the government the Prime Minister quickly moved to distance himself and his government from the raids claiming that the two agencies and the police were acting entirely of their own accord and the police themselves are on record as saying that the two events are unrelated and so it's left to be seen you know whether new light will be shared on the real circumstances that led to these raids it's quite hard to accept without inquiry as to whether there was absolutely no notice given whether informally or formally to the bosses in government and for people to understand I mean the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is the leading broadcaster throughout the entire country of Australia I wanted to bring Peter greste into this conversation we had you here in our studio after you were imprisoned for well over a year by Egypt with your to Al Jazeera College who were working with Al Jazeera at the time you certainly knew what it meant to be arrested to not have rights not to be even told at the beginning why the Egyptian authorities were holding you now you see the situation in Australia and I was wondering if you can talk about the laws around press freedom if you have them in Australia amazingly in this warrant the warrant gave the police wide-ranging authority to view seized edit and destroy virtually any document it's soft fit yeah that's right look at that there are a whole host of questions in there Amy but let me deal with the very beginning of it and that's the way I felt when I heard about the news because it did and even now I can feel the my skin pricking up thinking about the raids and what that would have felt like because I know exactly what it was like to have agents burst into your room looking for evidence and and and all the confusion that surrounds that the outrage that surrounds that but I never really honestly expected to see it take place here in Australia and it seems to me that even though I'm not suggesting Australia is about to become an authoritarian state like Egypt anytime soon I think that we are being pushed in the same direction by the same kind of imperatives around national security the prioritizing of national security over the human rights and democratic rights of citizens largely because it's much easier to make the political case for national security legislation but when you see attacks in the streets and the consequences of that but much harder to make the more abstract case for human rights and citizen's rights freedom of speech freedom of the press and so on until you see what that means in practical terms and and and that's what we saw last week with these two raids I think it's very very concerning to me and I'm deeply worried now as you mentioned we don't have in Australia any explicit protection for press freedom written into the law nothing about freedom of speech Australia has no bill of rights all we have is an implied right of political communications at the high court and decided that that was there as a as a function of our democracy they said that we live in a dump in a representative democracy and you can't have an effective representative democracy without political communication therefore that right is somehow inferred in the Constitution but without anything like the First Amendment in the United States here in Australia without any explicit protection for press freedom what we're seeing is a lot of scope for legislators to draft laws that really intrude on press freedom and all sorts of deeply troubling ways that make it much harder for journalists to protect their sources make it much harder even for journalists to contact sources within government and so what we're seeing is a vast web of interconnected national security laws that in all sorts of ways make these kinds of raids that we saw last week possible I'm not so critical of the federal police for carrying out the raids I accept that they were probably doing their jobs and as we've been hearing there may well have been some kind of political involvement in there but let's take that what the what the federal police have been saying at face value that there was nothing political if there was nothing political if that was simply fulfilling their duties under the law then clearly the law needs to change and that's what we need to start talking about and feel aggressive we have about a minute left but I wanted to ask you in terms of who determines the violations of state secrets is there one centralized agency or can various federal agencies decide to conduct these kinds of raids in Australia no look it's quite difficult to know quite what what the how the laws come into effect or coming into force I mean let's let's take a look at the data retention laws the metadata in any number of more than 20 agencies government agencies can look into any Australians metadata without a warrant now they need to apply for a special journalist warrant if they want to investigate journalists metadata in a search for sources but otherwise there is no there is no warrant system they can look anywhere anywhere that they want and I think that's the kind of scope that we're talking about that's overreach you talk to any lawyer any civil rights activist anyone who knows about the way the law operates and they'll acknowledge that that's overreach and we need to really start a vigorous conversation within this country about the limits of state power and what what and the limit and and the kind of ways that we need to encourage and support press freedom and also the protection of whistleblowers because ultimately these raids were in the hunt for the for the for the resources of the these stories for the journalists sources for the whistleblowers that felt that these stories needed to be told well we have to wrap up right now but we want to continue the vigorous discussion and we're gonna bring folks part two at democracynow.org under web exclusives Peter greste we want to thank you and ask you to stay for that part two discussion UNESCO chair in journalism and communications University of Queensland founding director of lines for journalists freedom prison for more than 400 days also Joseph Fernandez maybe a lot at that Mecca Curtin University Austria's correspondent for reporter so that borders stay with us I'm Amy Goodman Juan Gonzalez you

47 Replies to “Press Freedom Under Attack: Australian Police Raid Network for Exposing War Crimes in Afghanistan”

  1. Why would government officials go out of their way to destroy information that the public need to know? It is obvious they are the enemy and we the people of the world are in danger.

  2. Wherever you find those who say they are law enforcers going out of their way to suppress the people from learning the facts they need to know about their own issues that is when you know they are your enemies. Any form of loyalty any form of allegiance is forbidden to be shown to these corrupt officials they should be placed in jail or sent to hell

  3. It's interesting Australians own Julian Assange also exposed war crimes. I wonder how well ABC covered this hero's story. I've not heard much from Australian media or politicians on this.

  4. Hey John Lyons and Peter Greste where was your fear of journalistic suppression when Julian Assange was about to be destroyed…Oh I forgot Assange is NOT a journalist in your eyes. You and your whole corrupt mindset of purchased journalists worldwide have caused that situation , now save your crocodile tears and enjoy your homemade fascism what you selve helped to create.

  5. They hate their crimes and corrupt behaviour being exposed so they’ve changed the laws so they can keep them covered up. Better wake up people. Who are these strong handed people wanting to rule with power and control

  6. THIS IS HOW " CORRUPT GOV'T & it's minions in crime BELIEVE they can manipulate the public and not expect backlash for their CRIMINAL ACTIONS ! WRONG ! WRONG ! WRONG ! GET THE PICTURE YET ? they will .

  7. Everyone please Google and read the Jesuit Blood Oath? It's the fastest way to an understanding of who and what we're dealing with, and how evil they really are. Please understand that these Jesuits are thoroughly in control of us, however we must expose them for there ways, they're bloody horrible history, and the awful depopulation plan they have for us.

  8. "…they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes. There was no thought of rebellion or disobedience…."
    George Orwell / Animal Farm

  9. I believe Australia might getting some type of conflict with China I believe they are planning something and that's why I believe the crackdown on the press worldwide starting to plug hose because loose lips sink ships

  10. What Greste is stating is correct, but this should be taken in context; Greste is an establishment journalist. Just after Greste was pushing for the prosecution of Assange:
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/assange-is-no-journalist-don-t-confuse-his-arrest-with-press-freedom-20190412-p51di1.html
    He is now ironically being critical of the corporate plutocratic state as it begins to attack journalists closer to home. Just as we watch networks like MSNBC and CNN backpedal, we are also watching establishment journalists throughout the West, who see the writing on the wall, start to find some transient morals and push back against information oppression.

    But what you won't be told is Australia is just a vassal state of the Anglo-American empire. Just like the Democratic and Republican Parties in the US, the Labor and Liberal-National Coalition in Canberra-Australia are owned completely by the Anglo-American oligarchs and we are now watching the beginning of the slow closure of the noose around all Western freedoms. What these plutocrats are afraid of is the unraveling and exposure of their imperial lust for power and wealth and exposing the criminal acts of their puppets, minions, and mercenaries will start tugging on that one thread. The last thing the plutocrats and their war criminal minions want is questions by a usually quiescent public who are now starting to stir.

  11. Thankyou for reporting this from Australia. I have never been so worried about human rights in my country I can't remember a time when our journalists have been hassled like this.. It's not just freedom of Press and whistle blowers that is challenged ,there are issues with some minority groups as well, like refugees and incarceration of indigenous peoples. I am sad for my country and many other countries around the world who appear to be having similar issues.. Democracy is not perfect.. but I sure don't like the alternatives. !

  12. The ABC is THE Public Broadcasting Network in Australia. The newly reelected "Liberal" Government (it's really a Facade for Right Wing Reactionary Politics in Australia) is openly ideologically opposed to the ABC as it is Publicly/Government owned The "Liberals" have disdain for the ABC because it is the only Media Organisation that attempts to hold this Government to any real accountability.
    Knowing this information a Majority still voted for these "Liberals" and this is a reflection of this sort of Reactionary Politics that has taken hold here in Oz. Well Australia you have got what you Voted for.

  13. the raid the offices of MAINSTREAM MEDIA ?? – they tried that shit once in Austria, but the publicly funded TV station refused to let them enter (and they did not ocme with a squat team). True this was not about the military (protecting sources in a case that was embarrassing for one of the parties). Law enforcement sued – but in the 2nd round the ruling went against them.

    The TV station was right to protect their sources.

  14. The second of the six nations led by the US to censor journalists. 
    I call the nations settled by people who had a one way ticket…no going back from where they came, 'immigrant nations' who had to seize control over the land they settled. 
    Great Britain is not an immigrant nation, neither is Holland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Land control was never a problem for the colonial empires that could not be solved by revolution or legal enactments. They can leave their colonies sooner than later for they have a home to return to.
    But for the persecuted who were not incorporated into the colonial empires, there was no turning back; no home on the return. The psychology of this immigrant tale is still an ethos in white culture to this day, seemed to have left an indelible impression of an insecurity of losing a homeland that they become immediately protective and defensive of any probe or inquiry. A protectiveness leading to authoritarianism and fascism imposing a heavily guarded fence to shut out the Public around the affairs of the State.

  15. Australia,  the UK,  many but not all European Countries are following like Lap Dogs of the American Fascism .  Canada, … I'm sorry to say is also a LAP DOG of the USA, … not as seriously as Fascist Australia and Fascist United Kingdom.    We already know whom is responsible for this TOTALITARIONISM, … it is THE USA,  ISRAEL,  SAUDI ARABIA.   The Judicial System of Australia has as one would suspect tried to justify the CENSORSHIP of the PRESS  ( media ) on the grounds that POLITICAL CRIMINALITY is ALWAYS justified.  BULL SHIT !    When freedom of expression in the PRESS is curtailed by GOVERNMENT …. A TOTAL LOSS OF FREEDOM IS COMING.  My suggestion CIVIL DISOBEDIANCE and if that fails FIGHT, .. even if all you have left for weapons are mouths and bare hands ! One way of using your hands is a NATIONAL STRIKE and DEMONSTRATIONS.   It is your country Australian Citizens not CORRUPT POLITICIANS.

  16. Canada needs to cut access to the five eyes technology from Australia, New Zealand, UK, and US immediately.
    Besides the idea of Canada allowing access to this crucial technology is rather stupid at best.
    Which of course the former CONservative government leased access to this technology because they are our allies.

    Not really

  17. US Constitutional freedoms of speech and news media are being ignored by the current US administration, making the situation in Australia a mirror image of present day "democracy" in the US.

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