The Federal Court of Australia ruled on Monday that The Australian Federal Police'(AFP) raid on the national broadcasting company, ABC, was lawful.
In early June 2019, the AFP executed a search warrant on the ABC’s premises and seized documents pertaining to “the Afghan Files stories,” a series of stories the ABC had posted on its website about the operations of the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan. These documents were secret defense force documents that an informant, David McBride, had leaked to the ABC.
In response to the seizure, the ABC petitioned the court on June 25, seeking a declaration from the court that the search warrant was invalid and the seizure of the ABC’s documents was unlawful, an order that the documents be returned to the ABC, and an injunction permanently restraining the AFP from viewing, accessing or sharing the documents.
The court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the warrant was valid and the search lawful, that the documents need not be returned to the ABC and that the ABC had to pay for its adversaries’ court costs.
The court’s decision has been met with criticism from the public. Many have expressed their disapproval, arguing that the ruling is a blow to the implied constitutional freedom of discussion of government and political matters.
Gaven Morris, the ABC’s director of News, stated: “I think fundamentally the court ruled that the AFP have the right to enter a newsroom, to fossil around in confidential files, to take information about the way it undertakes its journalism with its sources. This should send a chill down all of our citizens’ spines.”
The ABC is considering appealing the court’s decision.