The ABC has lost a case against the Australian Federal Police (AFP) over the validity of police warrants used to raid its offices last year.
Federal Court Justice Wendy Abraham dismissed the case on Monday morning.
In addition to losing the case, the ABC will also have to pay the legal costs of the other parties involved.
“This is at odds with our expectation that we live in an open and transparent society,” said ABC managing director David Anderson.
“We are not saying journalists should be above the law, we’re saying the public’s right to know should be a factor that is taken into account — and legitimate journalism should not be criminalised.”
The ABC was challenging the validity of the 5 June raids on its Ultimo headquarters, where AFP officers seized information — 124 files on two USB sticks — , in relation to ‘The Afghan Files’ stories, by investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, which were based on leaked Defence documents.
The broadcaster had argued the decision to approve the warrant had not been authorised under the Crimes Act and that the warrant itself was too broad and included terms which failed to provide any meaningful limitation on its scope.
Despite the protests, Abraham found each of the challenges to have failed.
Speaking after the decision had been handed down, ABC news director Gaven Morris said the ruling should “send a chill down the spines” of Australian citizens.
“Fundamentally the court ruled the AFP have the right to enter a news room, fossick around in confidential files and take information about the way it undertakes its journalism,” he said.
ABC Head of Investigative Journalism John Lyons said was equally disappointed with the verdict.
“It is a bad day for Australian journalism,” he said.
“After 18 months, we still have two journalists that face possible criminal charges.
“I contrast this to Angus Taylor and what the AFP’s treatment of him was, that case was over within weeks.”
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