Don’t speak truth unto power (1)

4 June: Australian federal police raided the home of Annika Smethurst, the political editor of Australia’s Sunday Telegraph. Her crime? Ironically it was reporting that the government was considering a plan to increase surveillance of its citizens. The Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance described the raid as seeking “ to punish a journalist for reporting a legitimate news story that was clearly in the public interest.” Journalists who report on Australia’s Parliament also complained that such a prominent journalist had been attacked. The police defended the raid by claiming that they were looking for classified documents.

Smethurst had reported in April on a secret proposal to grant new powers to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). The plan would allow the ASD to access emails, texts and bank records of Australian citizens, more or less at will. The government subsequently denied the existence of such a plan, but the raid would tend to suggest that the plan did indeed exist. Clearly they want to know how Smethurst learned of the plan and who her contact was. The search warrant, which ordered Smethurst reveal the passwords to her home computer and mobile phone, said that her report had “the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

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