The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents in the span of just two days.
Yesterday the AFP raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her investigative report last year which exposed the fact that the Australian government has been discussing the possibility of giving itself unprecedented powers to spy on its own citizens. Today they raided the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, seizing information related to a 2017 investigative report on possible war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan.
In a third, also ostensibly unrelated incident, another Australian reporter disclosed yesterday that the Department of Home Affairs has initiated an investigation of his reporting on a story about asylum seeker boats which could lead to an AFP criminal case, saying he’s being pressured to disclose his source.
AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.
— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
“Why has AFP suddenly decided to carry out these two raids after the election?” tweeted Australian Sky News political editor David Speers during the Sydney raid. “Did new evidence really just emerge in both the Annika Smethurst and ABC stories?!”
“If these raids unconnected, as AFP reportedly said, it’s an extraordinary coincidence,” tweeted The Conversation chief political correspondent Michelle Grattan. “AFP needs to explain ASAP the timing so long after the stories. It can’t be that inefficient! Must be some explanation – which makes the ‘unconnected’ claim even more odd.”
It is true that the AFP has formally denied that there was any connection between the two raids, and it is in fact difficult to imagine how the two could be connected apart from their sharing a common theme of exposing malfeasance that the government wanted kept secret. If it is true that they are unconnected,