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AFP raid journalists' home seeking source
15/06/201924/06/201904/06/2019Search & seizureAnnika SmethurstNews CorpCanberra
Australian Federal Police raided the home of News Corp political editor Annika Smethurst seeking to identify the source of a leak. In April 2018 Smethurst revealed that the public servants within the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which collects foreign intelligence, proposed giving the agency new powers that would allow it to spy on Australians. The ASD would be able to access bank records, emails and text messages under the plan. That story was built on correspondence between the departments of Home Affairs and Defence, the latter of which referred the leak to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on the same day that the story was published. Both departments also denied that there was any formal proposal in place. On Tuesday 4 June 2019 five AFP officers raided Smethurst's home in Canberra seeking information that could lead them to identify the source. Two more AFP officers and lawyers from News Corp joined during the day.The Guardian reported that the search warrant related to an investigation into the "alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret" and gave the police authority to search her home, computer and mobile phone. Smethurst told The Australian that the officers were "polite but thorough ... they went through everything in my house. My Christmas decorations, my drawers, my oven, page by page of every cookbook I own." She said that she had no warning that the raid was coming, and has not had any correspondence from the AFP about the investigation since the story was first published. Her employer, News Corp Australia, said in a statement that the raid was "a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths". The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said that the raid was "an outrageous attack on press freedom ... another example of the heavy hand of government." Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he supports press freedom, but that "it never troubles him that [Australia's] laws are being upheld". He said that he supports the powers at national security and police agencies are given by law.
Australian Federal PoliceYY
Radio presenter threatened over anonymous leak
15/06/201904/06/2019ThreatBen Fordham2GBSydneyRadio presenter Ben Fordham said that the Department of Home Affairs threatened him after he aired a story based on an anonymous leak from a government source. On Monday 3 June Fordham said on air that a source in the department had told him that up to six asylum seeker boats from Sri Lanka were bound for Australia. The following day, while discussing the AFP's raid on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst's home, he revealed that the department had contacted him and producer Zac McLean regarding the story. According to Fordham, the official said that the leak was an "unauthorised disclosure" and that it would be investigated. On Monday night, he says he had a further conversation with "senior sources" in the department, during which he was told that only a small number of people had access to the information in question, and that investigators would be able to access their call logs while looking for his source. On the morning of Tuesday 4 June, the department contacted him again to confirm that an investigation had been opened, and that it could lead to a referral to the AFP. The broadcaster stressed on air that he was told he was not the target of the investigation, and that the conversation was polite and he was not pressured to reveal his source. Fordham said that though he was asked for his co-operation, "there's not a hope in hell of that happening. Not today, not tomorrow, next week or next month. Under no circumstnaces will I be revealing my sources on this story or any story". "I work in a business that's based on freedom of the press and shining a torch in areas where there are shadows and it's not fair to the people who assist me with my work to give them up the moment the AFP comes knocking."
Department of Home Affairs
Public broadcaster raided over leak
16/06/201924/06/201905/06/2019Search & seizureDan Oakes, Sam Clark
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney newsroom of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over a national security leak. In July 2017 journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark published The Afghan Files, a seven-part series about Australian troops' conduct in Afghanistan. The story was based on documents leaked to the ABC and alleged, among other things, that special forces were being investigated for potential 'unlawful killings'. The same day an investigation was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) by the chief of the defence force. In September 2018 police began negotiating with the ABC to access the documents without having to execute a search warrant and conduct a public raid, according to The Guardian. The ABC refused. On Wednesday 5 June, the AFP entered the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters with a search warrant for Oakes and Clark, and head of the news division Gaven Morris. Police spent nine hours in the building and inspected thousands of documents, according to ABC head of investigative journalism John Lyons, who live-tweeted the raid.Lyons drew particular attention to the powers granted under the warrant to 'add, copy, delete or alter' information. In an op-ed, he later wrote that the powers reminded him of George Orwell's 1984. The powers were added to the Crimes Act 1914 in 2018 and are modelled on similar powers given to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2014. The ability to alter or delete data is restricted to that which is necessary to carry out the search warrant. Former defence lawyer David McBride has been charged with leaking to the ABC and to Fairfax Media. He has not denied leaking the documents, but maintains that he acted in the public interest by revealing illegal conduct. He was committed to trial days before the raid. A further mention hearing will be held on 27 June. McBride was also named on the warrant. He said that whistleblower protections are a sham, and that prosecuting him for revealing government misconduct is akin to the actions of totalitarian state. “There’s no suggestion that I’m actually damaging national security. I think the government is damaging national security, and yet they’re treating me as if I’m a terrorist.” McBride has been charged with one count of theft of Commonwealth property, three counts of breaching the Defence Act and one count of unauthorised disclosure of information. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Documents were reviewed alongside ABC lawyers, then sealed for a period of two weeks. ABC lawyers are able to review them during this period and determine whether there are any privilege claims. Separately, they may decide to take out an injunction against the warrant. Managing Director David Anderson said that 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." The raid was widely condemned. Marcus Strom, president of the Media Section of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said in a statement that the raid was "nothing short of an attack on the public’s right to know. "These raids are about intimidating journalists and media organisations because of their truth-telling. They are about more than hunting down whistleblowers that reveal what governments are secretly doing in our name, but also preventing the media from shining a light on the actions of government,” he said. The raid was also condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontieres and Index on Censorship.
Australian Federal PoliceYY
Dozens of journalists, editors facing contempt of court charges in Pell case
24/06/201926/02/2019Legal order
Many, see:
As many as 100 journalists were issued show cause notices in February, accused of breaching the suppression order placed over the trial of Cardinal George Pell.In June 2017 Pell was charged over historical sex offences. He was committed to face the charges over multiple trials in May 2018, the first of which began in August of that year. Chief Judge of the Victorian County Court Peter Kidd, the judge presiding over the first trial (nicknamed the 'cathedral trial' for the site of the allegations), issued a suppression order on 25 June 2018. The order covered all information about the trial and was put in place to avoid prejudicing a separate group of jurors in the upcoming second trial (the 'swimmers trial'). Pell was found guilty by the jury in the cathedral trial on 11 December 2018. The suppression order meant that Australian media could not publish the verdict, but it was widely reported internationally. A few days later on 13 December, Australian newspapers protested the prior restraint on their front pages. In a hearing that same day, Kidd "could not contain his fury", according to The Guardian journalist Melissa Davey: “The way I see it at the moment is that some of this publicity was designed to put improper pressure upon me,” Kidd said. “And, indeed, it is positively misleading … My [suppression] order was never appealed. Indeed, quite dishonestly these articles refrain from informing their readers that there was no opposition [by media] to the suppression order being made in Victoria." The ABC reported that he said that "a number of very important people in the media are facing, if found guilty, the prospect of ... substantial imprisonment". A transcript of that hearing was circulated to journalists by the court. Three months later, on February 26 2019, the second case against Pell - the swimmers trial - was dropped. Chief Judge Kidd lifted the suppression order, and the same day it was revealed that the Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC had written to "as many as 100" journalists, publishers and editors accusing them of breaching the order, of scandalising the court and interfering with the administration of justice. Those who received the letters (called 'show cause notices') were required to respond why they shouldn't be charged with contempt of court. Charges were pursued against 23 individuals and 13 organisations in the first hearing on 15 April. At that hearing, media lawyers Justin Quill and Matt Collins QC successfully argued that the charges lacked detail and were therefore difficult to respond to. Prosecutors agreed to prepare a more comprehensive statement of claim. In its updated document, filed on 20 May, charges against 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley and editor of the Herald Sun Damon Johnston had been dropped. The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday 26 June.
Victorian County Court
Contempt of court
Tax office whistleblower facing significant jail time
Criminal charges; Search & seizure
Richard Boyle
Source; Australian Broadcasting Corporation
A whistleblower could be jailed for up to 161 years for revealing misconduct in the Australian Taxation Office. Richard Boyle, 43, faces charges including using a listening device without consent and making a record of protected information. In April 2018 Boyle, a debt collector at the ATO, was a source for a joint Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax investigation into the use of garnishee notices. The notices allow the ATO to compell banks to hand over a percentage of any deposit made on an account for the purposes of debt recovery. In the story, he alleged that staff at the Adelaide branch were instructed to use garnishees against small businesses and vulnerable individuals without considering their circumstances. He had previously attempted to resolve the issue internally under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, according to the ABC. A week before the story was published his home was raided by the Australian Federal Police. The search warrant named Fairfax investigative journalist Adele Ferguson. In all, he faces 66 charges, to which he is expected to plead not guilty when he next faces the court in July.
Australian Taxation Office; Australian Federal Police
French journalist and crew arrested, charged while covering Adani protest
Hugo Clément, Guillaume Durand, Clément Brelet, Victor Peressentchensky
France 2Bowen
Four French media workers have been charged with trespass while covering protests against a new Adani coal mine. Journalist Hugo Clément, producer Guillaume Durand and cameramen Clément Brelet and Victor Peressentchensky were filming near the Abbot Point port near Bowen, Queensland. They are in Australia filming a documentary series about the world's oceans. At 7.00am on Monday 22 July the four were arrested by Queensland police, along with three protesters. "We were just filming the action of those people and we don't know why but police decided to arrest us," Clément told the ABC. "It's just difficult to understand why police decided to do that because we are not a danger, we did not block the railway, we are just filming, reporting what is going on here." They were released on bail that afternoon and are scheduled to appear before the Magistrates Court on 3 September. As part of their bail conditions they are unable to be within 100 metres of any site owned by the Adani Group, and must stay at least 20km away from the Carmichael coal mine. “For me Australia was a very big democratic country with big press freedom so to do my job here in Australia I didn’t think it would be a problem,” Clément told the Guardian Australia. “I’m very surprised and maybe disappointed too because I didn’t think it was like that here, but in fact it is.” In a statement, Daniel Bastard from Reporters Sans Frontières called on Queensland authorities to drop the charges and expressed concern about press freedom in Australia. Recent repeated press freedom violations in Australia raise questions about respect for the rule of law. If nothing changes, Australia has every chance of falling several places in RSF’s next Press Freedom Index”, he said. Australia was ranked 21 on the index in 2019, down two places from the previous year.
Queensland PoliceTrespass
Government sent Nine a warning letter over foreign interference laws
Foreign interference
Hugh MarksNineSydney
The Australian Government sent Nine a letter warning that the company should pay closer attention to foreign interference laws after it broadcast footage gathered by the Qatari state broadcaster Al Jazeera. The story showed the then One Nation candidate for Queensland Steve Dickson in a strip club in Washington DC. He makes derogatory comments to and about the dancers and appears to grope one. Dickson resigned after the footage was aired by Nine's A Current Affair. Chief executive at Nine Hugh Marks revealed the letter in a Senate inquiry into press freedom in August. According to Marks, the letter warned him that though Nine had not broken any laws, it should undertake a self-assessment as to whether it should register as a foreign agent. “It is the attorney general’s department view that, if this broadcast was done on behalf of a foreign principal (Al Jazeera) then it would be a registrable communications activity,” the letter said.“However, we note that Al Jazeera has subsequently issued a public statement denying its involvement in the broadcast which may indicate that the broadcast was not undertaken on Al Jazeera’s behalf.”The footage was collected by Al Jazeera during its production of the How To Sell a Massacre documentary, in which a journalist went undercover as an Australian gun rights activist in order to gain access to the National Rifle Association in the US. It was left out of the original documentary and both Al Jazeera and producer Peter Charley said that they did not consent to it being broadcast. Marks questioned the intent behind sending the letter.“This is a perfect example of the ‘tone’ that is being set of a culture aimed to ‘gag’ the media and provide disincentives to us uncovering wrongs which merely embarrass or offend public officials.“The accumulation of laws which are gagging the media will lead to an erosion of the strength of our democracy. And more importantly the public won’t know because we can’t tell them, and that is the real tragedy for our society.” Sarah Chidgey, deputy secretary in the Attorney-General's Department, defended sending the letter the following day. She said that Nine are not a target but that she wanted to draw their attention to 'different factual scenarios' which might suggest they should register. A similar letter was sent Al Jazeera for producing the documentary.The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme requires agents engaging in political activities on behalf of foreign entities to register with the government.
Attorney General's Department
Al Jazeera warned about foreign interference laws
Foreign interference
Giles Trendle, Rodger Muller
Al JazeeraDoha
The Australian Government sent a letter to Al Jazeera warning that it should be careful not to breach foreign interference laws in its reporting. Managing director Giles Trendle received the letter in June. It concerned a documentary, How to Sell a Massacre, in which an Al Jazeera journalist named Rodger Muller went undercover to infiltrate the National Rifle Association. The letter was obtained by BuzzFeed through a freedom of information request. In the letter, assistant secretary of the Institutional Integrity Branch Lucinda Atkinson states that though Al Jazeera didn't need to register in this instance, the department wanted to draw attention to the scenarios in which it would. Al Jazeera is partly funded by the Qatari government. Atkinson also suggests that Muller, through his undercover actions as a guns-rights activist, may have committed a crime by failing to register.A similar letter was sent to Nine for broadcasting further footage collected during the documentary's production. Both Al Jazeera and producer Peter Charley said that they did not consent to it being broadcast. The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme requires agents engaging in political activities on behalf of foreign entities to register with the government.
Attorney General's Department
University sues after whistleblower speaks to media
20/10/201905/2019Civil suitGerd Schrödder-Turk
Source; Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Murdoch University is suing an academic after he blew the whistle on falling admission standards. Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk spoke to Four Corners for an investigation into international student admissions which aired in May 2019. He said that universities are setting students up to fail when they enrol those without the necessary language skills. He also expressed concern for their wellbeing and for the integrity of teaching at Murdoch.Two days after the program aired he was told that he would be removed from his position on the university senate due to his public comments. Schröder-Turk commenced legal action against the university seeking to prevent disciplinary action. In response, the university launched a cross-claim against him, seeking damages for the lost revenue that it claims resulted from his comments. The university is also seeking the names of the journalists that he spoke to and the dates on which he did so. In order to gain whistleblower protections under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 (WA), Schröder-Turk was required to raise the matter internally and then give the university six months to complete an investigation before going to the press.
Murdoch UniversityY
Cameroonian journalist denied a visa
Borders and immigration
Mimi Mefo TakambouMimi Mefo Info, Deutsche WelleBrisbane
A Cameroonian journalist and press freedom activist has been denied a visa to speak in Australia. Mimi Mefo Takambou was invited to speak to the Integrity 20 conference at Griffith University, Brisbane, on Friday 25 October. She was to give a keynote titled Without Fear or Favour and then participate in a panel discussion about press freedom with Kerry O'Brien, head of the UK-based NGO Index on Censorship Jodie Ginsberg, and Associate Professor of journalism Matthew Condon.Mefo applied for a visa at the Australian Embassy in Berlin. She is currently working at the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Bonn."I applied for the first visa myself and it was refused," she said. "Integrity 20 organisers then decided to enlist the help of an immigration professional to submit the second application on my behalf."The second application was also refused. Mefo said that the refusal was on the grounds that she hadn't demonstrated that she would leave Australia after the conference, even though she is scheduled to present at the African Investigative Journalism Conference only a few days later. Her flight from Brisbane and visa to enter South Africa have already been obtained."I am to present the Carlos Cardoso Memorial Lecture in South Africa from the 28th October. As such, I would have compulsorily left Australia on the 26th to get there on time."“Australia prides itself on its democratic values, including freedom of expression,” Ginsberg said in a statement. “This means it needs to support and champion those being denied the right to speak in their own countries. Denying visas to journalists who have faced oppression and censorship in their own countries simply emboldens the oppressor.”“It is frankly insulting and belittling to suggest Mimi Mefo would use the opportunity of this keynote to seek asylum in Australia.”Mimi Mefo Takambou is an award-winning journalist who reports through her online publication Mimi Mefo Info. She won the 2019 Freedom of Expression Award from Index on Censorship and was the writer-in-residence at English PEN in 2019. For her reporting on unrest in the western Anglophone regions of Cameroon she has faced threats of violence, and reprisals from authorities. In November 2018 she was arrested and charged with "publishing and propagating information that infringes on the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cameroon". She was released after four days and local and international pressure.
Department of Home Affairs
Journalist shoved by police while covering protest
30/10/201930/10/2019Physical attackProtestPaul DowsleySevenMelbourne
Seven News reporter Paul Dowsley was pushed by police while covering a climate protest in Melbourne. In a video posted to Twitter a group of Victoria Police officers can be seen shoving Dowsley as he attempts to pass them. "Do you mind? I'm walking here" he can be heard repeatedly saying, as a male officer threatens to arrest him and pushes him back. He appears to gesture in the direction he is trying to go as a female officer first pushes his shoulder, then grabs his jacket to push him back.He is holding a microphone and somebody can be heard saying repeatedly "He's a journalist."When he has passed the group of police, the same female officer follows him, grabs him by the jacket and tie, and attempts to push him back in the direction that he came from.Dowsley declined to comment.On Twitter he wrote that he was stunned, and that he was obeying their directions to move to another area.The protesters were demonstrating outside the International Mining and Resources Conference 2019.
Victoria Police