Journo union attacks police raids over NBN leaks as ‘heavy handed’

The union representing journalists has said raids carried out overnight on the offices of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and the home of a Labor Party staffer were “heavy handed” and an attack on press freedom.

Overnight police raided two properties in Melbourne in relation to leaked documents given to The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, the ABC and Delimiter about the state of the NBN network and problems within it.

The Australian Federal Police say the raids were in relation to unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information.


Murphy: “The government wants to shoot the messenger rather than address the issues raised by journalists”

In a statement CEO of journalist’s union the MEAA, Paul Murphy, said: “Once again, the government wants to shoot the messenger rather than address the issues raised by journalists in their reporting.

“AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin is correct that the AFP has acted lawfully, but we contend there is something wrong with the law when police search warrants can be used to pursue legitimate whistleblowers.

“Both major parties have voted to bring into force legislation which has complete disregard for the public interest and instead targets whistleblowers and journalists.

“As Edward Snowden recently commented, specifically about the situation in Australia: ‘Sometimes the scandal is what the law allows’.”

He also raised questions as to whether the metadata of journalists had been accessed without their knowledge under the controversial metadata retention laws.

“The access of journalists’ phone and internet records potentially puts them inadvertently in breach of the journalists’ code of ethics and the obligation to protect confidential sources,” Murphy said.

“The answers given by Commissioner Colvin to these questions today were completely unsatisfactory.

“We were told that it was necessary to pass the metadata retention laws for national security purposes, but I am sure most Australians would be appalled to learn that the metadata laws are being used in this way.”

Murphy also expressed concerns at the timings of the raids, coming just weeks before the Federal election.

“Australia was once a bastion of press freedom and freedom of expression but now governments are pursuing journalists and their sources, criminalising legitimate journalism in the public interest and denying the public’s right to know with pressure mounting to further deny information from becoming public,” he added.

“There is a great deal of effort being expended by government to avoid legitimate scrutiny. And it’s getting worse. These attacks on press freedom undermine democracy.”


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