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Australia's public broadcaster weighs legal action after police raid

PTI | Sydney | Updated: 10-06-2019 13:10 IST | Created: 10-06-2019 12:54 IST
Australia's public broadcaster weighs legal action after police raid
ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose said her organisation had consulted with lawyers over what options they had but had yet to brief anyone. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Australia's public broadcaster is considering legal action to demand the return of documents seized in a police raid, its chairwoman said Monday, ahead of a meeting with the prime minister over a crackdown on whistleblower leaks. The Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was raided by federal police on Wednesday, the second high-profile raid on journalists in 24 hours.

It targeted executives and journalists involved in a two-year-old investigative report where the ABC obtained documents showing Australian special forces had killed innocent men and children in Afghanistan. ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose said her organisation had consulted with lawyers over what options they had but had yet to brief anyone.

"At this point, we're really assessing the allegations to see what actions can be taken and we want to make sure that we're in the strongest available position to defend ourselves and also our journalists," Buttrose told ABC radio. The Australian newspaper reported Monday the public broadcaster had retained the services of top media barrister Matthew Collins.

Some 100 documents were seized by police in the raid and put onto two USBs that were placed into sealed bags, according to the head of the ABC's investigations team John Lyons. The ABC has two weeks to appeal the warrant or ask for individual documents to be returned. If there is no appeal or it is not successful, the police can then access those documents, Lyons said.

Buttrose said she would be meeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week to express her views about the raid. She said last week it was "clearly designed to intimidate". "I'm not going to tell the Prime Minister what to do. But I will tell him how we feel at the ABC and how I feel," she said.

"I think all of the media organisations in Australia need to get together and pressure the government to review the laws and the rights and freedoms of the media." Police last week also raided a News Corp journalist's home in Canberra over a report detailing the authorities' bid to gain powers to spy on Australian citizens communications at home.

Police said there was no link between the two raids, which related to stories involving sensitive and potentially classified materials and were embarrassing to the government and the security services in particular.


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