News National Federal Police raid ABC’s Sydney HQ over Afghan stories

Federal Police raid ABC’s Sydney HQ over Afghan stories

afp raid abc sydney
Federal Police officers enter the ABC's Ultimo headquarters on Wednesday. Photo: ABC
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Australian Federal Police officers are raiding the ABC’s Sydney headquarters over a series of 2017 stories known as The Afghan Files.

The stories, by ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and were based off hundreds of pages of secret Defence documents leaked to the ABC.

The search warrant names Oakes, Clark and the ABC’s director of news, Gaven Morris.

Three AFP officers entered the ABC first on Wednesday, followed shortly afterwards by three police IT technicians.

AFP officers served the ABC legal team with a warrant and are searching for, and copying onto hard drives, information related to the warrant.

The AFP told the ABC they want to search through email systems in relation to the people mentioned in the search warrant and were searching “data holdings” between April 2016 and July 2017.

They are also searching for article drafts, graphics, digital notes, visuals, raw television footage and all versions of scripts related to The Afghan Files stories.

abc raid afp sydney
Federal police officers meet with ABC lawyers. Photo: ABC

ABC ‘will protect its sources’

ABC managing director David Anderson said it was “highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way”.

“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,” he said.

“The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”

ABC editorial director Craig McMurtrie described the raid as a “very unwelcome and serious development”.

“This was outstanding reporting … it was clearly in the public interest and sometimes difficult truths have to be told,” he said.

“We will be doing everything we can to limit the scope of this and we will do everything we can to stand by our reporters.”

‘Not linked’ to News Corp journalist’s home raid

The raid comes one day after the AFP executed search warrants at the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, who had reported on secret plans to allow government spying.

The AFP released a statement saying no arrests were planned on Wednesday and the warrant was “not linked to a search warrant executed in Canberra yesterday”.

The search warrant was “in relation to allegations of publishing classified material, contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act 1914” and “relates to a referral received on 11 July 2017 by the Chief of the Defence Force and the then-Acting Secretary for Defence” the statement said.

The ABC has sought comment from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Opposition Home Affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally said Labor had requested a briefing from Mr Dutton’s office “to seek to understand why raids of such nature are warranted”.

“Freedom of the press is an essential component of our democracy,” she said.

-with Elise Worthington and Clare Blumer