Police access Australian journo data to uncover sources

Six journalists have been targeted in a single year by federal police trying to discover their sources by investigating their telecommunications data.

Jan 29, 2020, updated Jan 29, 2020
Photo: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Photo: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Australian Federal Police are able to access both an individual journalist’s and their employer’s data if a journalist information warrant has been granted.

Six of those warrants were granted to the AFP in 2018 to 2019, up from two in the year before, the latest annual report into federal telecommunications access laws show.

On 20 out of 58 occasions the AFP were authorised to access information or documents.

Australia’s press freedom has been under intense security after the AFP raided two media outlets last year.

Federal police raided the Sydney headquarters of the ABC, and the Canberra home of a News Corp journalist, over separate stories based on leaked government information.

The ABC was raided last year over stories published in 2017 containing allegations Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.

News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home was raided over the 2018 publication of a leaked plan to allow the ASD to spy on Australians.

The journalists involved could still face charges.

Under the nation’s tightening national security laws it’s illegal for Commonwealth officers to leak documents, and also to publish the information.

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The raids prompted the “Australia’s Right To Know” campaign late last year, which called for freedom of information reform, whistleblower protections and public interest exemptions from national security laws.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has since flagged potential changes to laws protecting whistleblowers and the FOI regime.


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