This week’s AFP raids on multiple media entities in Australia has dominated the news cycle, and as predicted, has dominated the greater national discussion. Within minutes of the news breaking, the drama became fodder for the Culture Wars in Australia, adding even more confusion into an already complicated situation.
We’ve had more than two days to process these happenings, but it’s clear that Australian’s aren’t seeing eye to eye on the issue. Many conservative Australians are applauding the move by the federal police, eager as ever to “own the lefties”, and indeed many people on the left, or more progressive Australian’s haven’t registered the existential crises the raids represent either.
Today, we’re going to break down the situation and display everything as plainly as possible to detail what went down, and why all Australians – regardless of political opinions – should be concerned.
The AFP Raids on the media explained in 8 points
1) AFP raid the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst
Earlier in the year, Smethurst had reported that Australia’s Home and Defence ministries were actively discussing granting new and sweeping powers to intelligence agency Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).
Currently, the ASD is not allowed to spy on Australian citizens, however if the decision was approved by the ministries, the ASD would be able to obtain “emails, bank records and text messages of Australians”. Smethurts report featured an image from a secret document.
Even though at the time, Australia’s Home And Defence issued a statement claiming no new powers were being allocated to ASD, Tuesdays raids suggest otherwise, given that the pretence for the raid was “the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security. AFP were at Smethurt’s Canberra home for several hours.
AFP: For the record, one part of this extraordinary warrant: The AFP is allowed to “use any other computer or a communication in transit to access the relevant data; and if necessary to achieve that purposes (sic) – to add, copy, delete or alter other data in the computer…
— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
2) AFP begin investigating 2GB presenter Ben Fordham
On the same day as the AFP raided Smethurst, it was revealed they had begun a seperate investigation into Ben Fordham regarding his recent broadcast in which he disclosed six boats of asylum seekers were approaching Australia.
Fordham revealed his team was contacted by the home affairs ministry, seeking assistance with the investigation. They were looking to find Fordham’s sources, and who revealed the information to him initially.
Fordham stated, “The chances of me revealing my sources is zero. Not today, not tomorrow, next week or next month. There is not a hope in hell of that happening.”
3) AFP raid ABC offices
On Wednesday, a horde of AFP officers raided the ABC. So far, the AFP have retained more than 9,000 documents since the raids began. As per the conditions of their search warrant, the AFP were granted power to add, copy, delete or alter any of the documents they seize.
The pretence for the ABC raid was a 2016 report titled The Afghan Files, in which the national broadcaster exposed war crimes committed by Australian troops including the murder of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.
The AFP’s argument boiled down to the fact they deemed this a leak of confidential military information, believing that reporting on the afghan files wasn’t in the interest of the Australian public.
The raid was conducted more than 2 years after the reporting was published.
afp: (continued) …or the communication in transit; and to copy any data to which access has been obtained, and that appears to be relevant for the purposes of determining whether the relevant data is evidential material of a kind specified in the warrant and…
— john lyons (@thelyonsden) june 5, 2019
4) The AFP have confirmed there is no link between the raids.
We’ve highlighted the reasons behind the raids and investigation for a reason. There’s very little, if any, connective tissue between the stories that the AFP are investigating. There is one common thread – they make the government look bad – granting new powers to a spy agency, a lapse in border patrol and a criminal culture within our armed forces.
This adds suspicion to the fact that these raids happened in such close proximity.
Considering the checks and balances in place before an AFP raid, it’s impossible the timing was a coincidence.
5) The Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs weren’t on home soil
Why does this matter? Well, when the two people who can be held to task about the behaviour of the AFP aren’t on home soil, it becomes very difficult for us to challenge them on the decision.
Make no mistake, it’s an odd coincidence that these two figures were removed from the situation physically, and therefore politically. Granted, the AFP does operate at arms length from the government, but it’s not beyond reproach.
6) This wasn’t “the lefties” getting owned
Both News Corp and 2GB are celebrated by their audiences for embracing conservative and right-wing values. In fact, the stories being investigated all discuss the same issue: a tyrannical government, or at least a government overstepping the boundaries.
Conservative values are traditionally against such things. remember, it’s “the lefties” or “the socialists” who apparently want more government intervention.
7) What was the outcome?
As reported by ABC Chief Editor John Lyons, there is now a two-week period in which the AFP aren’t allowed to access the seized documents. During this time, the BC can challenge any of the seizures. There was one immediate result – intimidation against journalists.
8) This isn’t happening all over the world
In fact, it’s sent shockwaves around the world that Federal Police would target journalists in such a way. UK broadcaster BBC issued a statement in solidarity with it’s Australian counterpart, decrying it as an attach on press freedom and “deeply troubling.”
Let’s remember that the Trump government, so concerned with fake news as it is, is yet to recommend the FBI raid CNN.
the bbc has released a statement on the abc raid by the afp – “deeply troubling”, “highly worrying” pic.twitter.com/pbzjt64sge
— josh butler (@joshbutler) june 5, 2019
To wrap it up nicely, this wasn’t an attack on liberal media, it wasn’t even an attack on journalists; this was an attack on freedom of speech in Australia and the scary part was, it went largely unchallenged.
Right now, AFP’s concerns seem to be exposes on shady government practices but as history has shown us time and time again, that’s where “the concerns” always start before the scope of these investigations, when left unchallenged begin to expand… one raid at a time.