ABC chair Ita Buttrose has issued a statement condemning this week’s Australian Federal Police (AFP) raid at the ABC.
On Wednesday, AFP officers raided ABC’s Ultimo headquarters over a series of 2017 stories entitled the ‘Afghan Files’.
The AFP also raided the home of New Corp journalist on Tuesday in Canberra, however, the incident was not related to the ABC raid.
In a statement, Buttrose said she had a “frank conversation” with federal communications minister Paul Fletcher yesterday, declaring the raid was “clearly designed to intimidate”.
She said: “It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policymakers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account.
“I also asked for assurances that the ABC not be subject to future raids of this sort.
“Mr Fletcher declined to provide such assurances while noting the ‘substantial concern’ registered by the Corporation.”
The story in question, published by the ABC as a seven-part series in 2017, revealed accusations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, including incidents of Australian troops killing unarmed men and children.
It was based on leaked defence documents.
Buttrose said: “The onus must always be on the public’s right to know. If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.
“As ABC Chair, I will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public.
“In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.”
The AFP raid sparked a global conversation about the public’s right to know information, with many viewing it as a threat to media freedom and democracy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the raid, sating upholding the laws of Australia “never troubles” him.