The ABC has launched legal action over the Australian Federal Police raid of its Sydney headquarters.
The public broadcaster on Monday said it had lodged an application in the Federal Court to set aside the warrant that authorised the AFP raid on June 5 and to demand the return of seized files.
The ABC is also seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the AFP from accessing the material seized.
“The ABC is asking the court for a declaration that the warrant was invalid on several technical grounds that underline the fundamental importance of investigative journalism and protection of confidential sources,” managing director David Anderson said in a statement.
“We are also challenging the constitutional validity of the warrant on the basis that it hinders our implied freedom of political communication.”
The ABC’s Ultimo offices were raided on June 5 in relation to stories published in 2017 alleging Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.
During a search, AFP officers took possession of about 100 documents, on national security grounds. The contents were transferred to USB sticks and placed in sealed bags.
Mr Anderson said the ABC was determined to defend its journalists and the work they do informing the public.
“The AFP has given an undertaking not to access the files until our proceedings are determined,” he said.
“Because of the court proceedings, I cannot add much more.”
The Afghan Files, by 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 named Oakes, Clark and the ABC’s director of News, Gaven Morris.
AFP LEGAL CHALLENGE: ABC Managing Director David Anderson said a full hearing on the matter is not expected until late July-early August.
— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 24, 2019
A full hearing on the matter isn’t expected until late July or early August.
“Rest assured, though, that the ABC will be using every avenue over the next few weeks to defend the actions of its journalists and to seek legislative changes that protect the media’s ability to report on matters of public interest,” Mr Anderson said.
Elsewhere, News Corp Australia is launching its own legal challenge, against the validity of the raids on the Canberra home of journalist Annika Smethurst a day prior to the raids on the ABC.
The application will seek to set aside the warrant authorising the raid, not just in terms of its scope but also its constitutional validity, namely the implied freedom of political communication.
– with agencies