AFP sought reporter fingerprints before media leak raid

Press freedom is again in the spotlight after fresh revelations federal police sought finger and palm prints of two ABC journalists under investigation over leaked documents.

Jul 16, 2019, updated Jul 16, 2019
AFP officers leave the ABC's Sydney headquarters after a raid in June. Photo: AAP/David Gray

AFP officers leave the ABC's Sydney headquarters after a raid in June. Photo: AAP/David Gray

Dan Oakes and Sam Clark are facing Australian Federal Police scrutiny over their involvement in stories about Australia’s special forces allegedly carrying out unlawful killings in Afghanistan.

A letter from the Australian Federal Police to the journalists was emailed on April 1 – two months before AFP officers raided the ABC’s Sydney headquarters seeking leaked documents relating to the stories.

The ABC said the email stated the AFP was “requesting your consent to a forensic procedure being the copying of your finger and palm prints”, with the two journalists being suspects in relation to three alleged offences.

The broadcaster’s head of investigations John Lyons said the revelation proved the men were police targets as part of the investigation.

“I haven’t ever heard of journalists being asked for fingerprints,” he told ABC News.

“This quite shocks me because it’s the sort of thing that if someone has burgled a house, people try to get fingerprints to find out who was the thief.”

The ABC declined to comment further on Monday, beyond confirming the AFP request had been received.

The revelation followed a report in the Sydney Morning Herald which said the AFP had sought from Qantas the travel details of Oakes.

The ABC’s managing director David Anderson has asked for the investigation to be dropped and is pursuing legal action to declare the search warrant involved in the raid invalid.

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It is also seeking a permanent injunction stopping the AFP accessing the electronic files removed from Ultimo on a sealed USB stick.

Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally blamed the coalition for not doing enough to protect press freedom.

“If journalism is not a crime in Australia, why is the Morrison government treating journalists like criminal suspects?” she said in a statement.

The parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security has begun an inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press.


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