Prime Minister Scott Morrison says two unprecedented raids on journalists in two days have caused anxiety, but stressed his government had no involvement.
The Australian Federal Police raided the ABC’s offices in relation to a story on war crimes in Afghanistan on Wednesday, just one day after they raided News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home over a story about a government plan to spy on ordinary Australians.
Mr Morrison, who initially said he was “never troubled” by the law being upheld, has now distanced the government from the police operation.
“First of all let me say that my government is absolutely committed to freedom of the press, secondly these are matters that were being pursued by the AFP operationally at complete arm’s length from the government, not in the knowledge of the government, not at the instigation of government ministers,” he said after D-Day commemorations in the UK on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison said he understood the raids have caused anxiety from the press and more broadly, and had spoken with media organisation editors and briefed the opposition about the situation.
“I can understand, particularly for the journalists involved, this would have been very upsetting and a very anxious and concerning event, of course it would be,” he said.
He also clarified that the investigation had been triggered by referrals from departmental heads before August 2018, when he became prime minister.
Mr Morrison said there were checks and balances around police investigations and no one in his government had any prior knowledge of the raids.
“It was not referred by government ministers or at their direction, it was referred by departmental secretaries,” he said.
“And that is the process that departmental secretaries follow where they believe that there have been potential breaches and that’s why the AFP is the agency that then investigates those and they are the ones who decide how they carry matters forward
“And for government ministers to be placed in the middle of that I think would be very troubling and that is what has not occurred here.”