By Ben Wilson
Like many others, I am angry about the raid on the ABC by the Federal Police. They have been used yet again, as a weapon to silence critics.
Australia is heading towards increasingly autocratic government, with no qualms about treading on well establish democratic rights.
This is what makes me angry most of all.
It is not only about the ABC. It is personal. All of us are under attack, and if we don’t get angry and decide not to stand for it, we can look forward to much worse in the future.
The raid on the ABC was sparked off, because it had aired a series in 2017, which “revealed allegations that unlawful killings and by Australian special forces in Afghanistan,” had taken place. If this is case, airing them is a service to and not a breech of Australia’s interests. The Federal Police have no business paying attention to it, and much less still, rolling up like a bunch of thugs.
It is inconceivable that this could have occurred without prior government approval and direction.
Nor is this a one off. The day before a journalist with news Corp, Annika Smethurst, had her home raided and searched, over a plan to allow government spying on Australians.
This is why Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union representing journalists, says that these two incidents represent a “disturbing pattern of assaults on freedom of the press.”
It seems that the objective was to find out information about who might have leaked sensitive documents, which have caused embarrassment to the Australian government. The media outlets have been accused of publishing “classified information.”
The two cases are not connected.
If the case is that a person or persons have been involved in criminal acts, how is exposure in breach of Australia’s interests? Isn’t a principle of democracy that wrongdoing by officials and political representatives, and others who act in Australia’s name should be open to question?
Australia has witnessed a raft of laws making it harder to do any such thing and imposing the potential for draconian penalties.
We have seen the disgraceful treatment of Julian Assange, for doing what many journalists do. The Australian government has not only refused to provide basic assistance to an Australian citizen. It has actively colluded in a process of victimisation and taken part in the character assassination through innuendo and repeating of unproven allegations.
By participating in this behaviour, sections of the media have themselves contributed to creating conditions for this to happen. But at the moment this is secondary, to the overriding need for a stand against what is being done.
The consequence of failing to do so will be serious.