News National ABC asks Peter Dutton to order halt to AFP action against journalists

ABC asks Peter Dutton to order halt to AFP action against journalists

ABC managing director David Anderson wants action against ABC journalists to cease. Photo: Taryn Southcombe
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The ABC has written to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton asking for a police investigation into two of the broadcaster’s journalists to be scrapped.

Australian Federal Police raided the ABC’s Sydney headquarters last month over a 2017 series known as the Afghan Files.

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

In an email to staff, ABC managing director David Anderson said the broadcaster preferred “to break news rather than be the news”.

“As I flagged on 24 June, the ABC is challenging the legality of the raid and is seeking the return of all documents. The action will begin in the Federal Court in early August,” he said.

“We are disappointed that the fate of our journalists, Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, remains unclear.

“We have written to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who has responsibility for the AFP, asking that any action against the pair cease. Failing that, that the ABC be briefed on when and how the AFP action will be resolved.”

afp raid abc sydney
Federal Police officers enter the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters in June. Photo: ABC

Widespread condemnation

The raids on the ABC and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst attracted widespread condemnation from media outlets as an attack on press freedom.

Parliament’s powerful security and intelligence committee is set to examine the impact of law enforcement and intelligence powers on freedom of the press, with a report due by mid-October.

Mr Anderson said the ABC had reservations about the inquiry’s terms of reference and the appropriateness of the committee to look into the matter but would continue to argue the case for reform.

“The public trust the ABC to speak truth to power and to shine the spotlight into dark corners,” he said.

“We cannot fulfil our legislative remit if our journalists are intimidated or treated like criminals.”