The Precedent Is Set, Again

05/06/2019

The AFP have been used as political tools before, notably when raiding Union offices with a media entourage and shady Minister that tried to hide from her blatant abuse of power. Now, this week, the AFP have raided the home of a News Corps journalist and the ABC for chilling reasons. Both of them are related to ‘national security’. Shout out to Assange, who our government has abandoned completely.

I’m not fan of the Murdoch press, but the raid on Annika Smethurt’s house because of her investigation last year into laws that would give the government unprecedented powers to spy on Australian citizens is concerning. Equally, if not more so considering the ABC is our public broadcaster, concerning is the raid on the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney, triggered by the Afghan Files they reported on in 2017.

In both cases, information had been leaked and reported on, and in both cases, it was most certainly within the public’s interest to know what abuses their government was committing. The role of journalists, ideally, is to shine a light on the misdeeds of those in power and to hold them accountable to the public. When governments start intimidating or taking action against leakers of such ‘sensitive’ information or the journalists doing their jobs by investigating it, it’s a clear sign of an increasingly hostile and authoritarian leadership.

This has an even greater impact given the recent Assange indictments under the Espionage Act in the US. For all the medias’ celebrating when Assange was first arresting, they now seem to be realising that they are now also targets. People can argue all they like about whether or not Assange can be considered a ‘journalist’, but the truth is he and WikiLeaks are publishers of information. All information revealed by WikiLeaks has been the raw data, and in all their years of operation they have never had to retract any of it due to inaccuracies or falsehoods.

When such work is penalised so severely, the press and any politician with a conscience (even Bernie Sanders had a relatively disappointing response to the whole affair) should be doing so much more than quietly passing through some half-arsed, obedient-to-power headlines about it maybe being a threat to the First Amendment (in the US) and journalism more broadly. It most certainly is a threat, and no amount of kowtowing to US government or any other neoliberal shitshow will prevent such action being taken against them as media organisations.

The mainstream media will shout and scream when Trump called them fake news, or attacks them in some way, but all waddle back into line when the threats become too real. Here in Australia, thankfully much of our media, including (surprisingly) News Corps, has taken a stand against the blatant abuse of power. The AFP should not be used for political purposes, to silence dissent and decent investigative journalism. The more they try to shut it down, the harder the public has to fight against them.

We already have our own anonymous whistleblower, Witness K, who revealed our government’s spy operations during negotiations with Timor-Leste. We’d screwed the fledgling country over before when they were a ‘part of’ Indonesia, and then we proceeded to keep trying to deny them their own natural resources by spying on them. Witness K and his lawyer are facing charges in a very quiet case that, in my view, receives too little coverage.

So, our government passed security laws that would, in theory, give them backdoor access to everyone’s private communications, have hidden away a man who uncovered wrongdoing that was in the public’s interest to know and have charged him for it, stayed dead silent on the situation involving Assange – who should immediately be brought to Australia to avoid extradition to the US – and have taken it upon themselves to yet again use the AFP as a political tool to intimidate not only journalists, but to (again) attack the ABC.

And we just elected these clowns for another three years. There are dangerous times ahead.

 

Liked this? Read WikiLeaks and Whistleblowers: Attacks on Press Freedom

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