PEN PERTH STATEMENT ON AFP RAIDSWednesday 5 June 2019
As an organisation committed to defending responsible freedom of expression and protecting a free press, PEN Perth is deeply concerned about today’s Australian Federal Police raids on the ABC’s Sydney headquarters over a series of articles published in 2017 called ‘The Afghan Files’, as well as the raids on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s Canberra home yesterday for her reporting on a separate case.  
‘The Afghan Files’ by Dan Oakes and Sam Clark reported upon ‘clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan, including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children.’ The raids on Smethurst’s home have been linked to a 2018 article which contained information suggesting Australia’s surveillance agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, was attempting to broaden its powers to spy on Australian citizens.
Both of these targeted cases have exposed government security secrets and there are concerns that the policing of them relates to bipartisan espionage laws passed in June 2018. Passed by the Liberal government, and supported by the Labor opposition, these laws created criminal offences that can carry life sentences. They expanded the definition of “national security” to an extremely broad interpretation that included “economic and political relations” with other countries.
PEN Perth is concerned by the government’s desire to undermine the Australian press’ reporting on decisions and processes made by the government, and their desire to suppress the Australian public’s right to know those decisions and processes, particularly through the pursuit and intimidation of whistleblowers. We believe that these raids present a threat to democracy.
We join a growing list of organisations who are distressed about these recent activities and we join with them in condemning the raids by the AFP. PEN Perth calls on the government to explain these threatening acts of intimidation directed toward journalists who are simply doing a job that is valuable for the whole of Australian society.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a free society and has long been regarded as central to Australian values. More to come on this developing story…
For further details contact PEN Perth, 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge, WA, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: penperth.org
 Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, Why the raids on Australian media present a clear threat to democracy, ABC The Conversation, 5 June 2019  Lorna Knowles, Elise Worthington and Clare Blumer, ABC raid: AFP trawl through thousands of files over Afghan Files stories, ABC, 5 June 2019  Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, The Afghan Files, ABC, 11 July 2017  Amy Remeikis, Police raid on Annika Smethurst shows surveillance exposé hit a nerve, The Guardian, 5 June 2019
 Gareth Hutchens, Sweeping foreign interference and spying laws pass Senate, The Guardian, 29 June 2019
— Samantha Maiden, Whistleblower at centre of ABC raid stands by Afghan leaks, The New Daily, 5 June 2019
— Bernard Keane, The ‘national security’ lie exposed by the Smethurst raid, Crikey, 5 June 2019
— Peter Grest, The raid on the ABC shows we need a law to protect journalists and their sources, The Guardian, 6 June 2019— David Crowe, Press raids are proof Australians deserve more scrutiny of their government, not less, 5 June 2019
— Damien Cave, Australia May Well Be the World’s Most Secretive Democracy, 5 June 2019
— Christopher Knaus, Federal police must split from Dutton ministry to save integrity, says union, 15 March 2019
— Australian Federal Police, AFP statement on activity in Canberra and Sydney, 5 June2019