Australian media cry wolf as the Federal Police raid the ABC and a News Corp journalist’s home

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst (4/6/19) on Tuesday in relation to alleged leaked government documents and today, Wednesday 5/6/19), the AFP have raided the Sydney offices of the ABC for the same reason. The old Australian media have gone berserk saying they need to be protected and need the public’s help etc but a lot of people on social media aren’t buying the media’s complaining as they see them as doing nothing more than crying wolf.

The reality is the old media, who are meant to be the watchdog keeping governments to account, only have themselves to blame for failing to defend other journalists and whistleblowers. If you are a journalist and not in the old media club then you are dispensable as far as the likes of News Corp and the ABC etc are concerned. But it is worth noting what the former editor of the UK’s The Guardian newspaper Alan Rusbridger said recently in relation to Julian Assange:

“Assange is a problematic figure in many ways. But the attempt to lock him up under the Espionage Act is a deeply troubling move that should serve as a wake-up call to all journalists. You may not like Assange, but you’re next.” (Click here to read more)

The same thing is happening here in Australia. How do I know? Because over the last 2 years I have been jailed twice for 4 months for standing up for my journalistic rights, I have been raided by the police for no justifiable reason and I have had another harassing police visit again for no justifiable reason. The first jail sentence was for breaching suppression orders in a defamation matter that to this day has still not been justified and the second jail sentence was for what I said in court and also in part for breaching suppression orders that were also never justified and that were ultimately lifted.

So when the media start saying they are worried that journalists in Australia might start getting jailed they deliberately refuse to acknowledge that it is already happening and in my case, it was a media company, Seven West Media, who paid to have me charged with contempt of court for breaching suppression orders. What makes it worse is that a Nine Entertainment editor, SMH’s Lisa Davies, was a cheerleader for my jailing by writing an article arguing why I should be jailed. As it turns out the old karma bus has caught up with Lisa Davies and she has been charged with criminal contempt for breaching suppression orders in the George Pell matter.

My first jailing did get media coverage but my second jailing received almost no media coverage. Fortunately, social media did give the story of my second jailing, which was on my website a few hours after I was jailed, a big push on Facebook and to a lesser degree Twitter which I have no doubt helped with the sentence being reduced on appeal from 18 months with a non-parole period of 13 months to a fixed sentence of 4 months.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin – paid over $600,000 per year

Media fail to support whistleblowers

The old media’s failure to support whistleblowers like they should have has helped to contribute to the current situation where the government and police think they can get away with harassing the media and whistleblowers. A couple of examples are:

  1. ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle who was in court on Tuesday (4/6/19) is facing more than 160 years in jail which seems to have only been mentioned in some media briefly and other media not at all. (Click here to read more)
  2. Defence whistleblower David McBride who was in court last Thursday (30/5/19) and committed to stand trial for leaking documents to the media which was related to the ABC raid today. The police raid on the ABC today probably got 100 times more media coverage than his court case last Thursday. (Click here to read more)
  3. Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery who are facing criminal charges for shining a light on the bugging of Timor-Leste government buildings by Australia. They don’t seem to get anywhere near the media coverage they deserve. (Click here to read more)
  4. Have any of the Australian media supported Julian Assange and his situation as strongly as they could? No, they haven’t which to me means they are to some degree complicit in the problem they have now with the AFP harassing them.

If all the Australian media threw their full weight behind any of the named above, even just one of them, it would rattle the government like no tomorrow and they would change their tune fast in relation to how they support and deal with whistleblowers. The government and law enforcement bodies would also quickly change how they try and intimidate the media.

The AFP raid on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst:

The Australian federal police have raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst investigating the publication of a leaked plan to allow government spying on Australians.

On Tuesday police executed a warrant investigating the “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret” which they said had the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.

The warrant from an ACT magistrate gave police authority to search the home, computer and mobile phone of the News Corp Sunday titles’ political editor. (Click here to read more)

Given that Annika Smethurst published her story in April 2018 why did the AFP wait 14 months to raid her house? It was obvious to many that it was 14 months since she published her story but only 3 weeks after the federal election so it seems that AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, who earns over $600,000 per year, didn’t want to upset his political bosses.

AFP raid on the ABC

The raid on the ABC today was about a story they ran in July 2017 called The Afghan Files which had hundreds of pages of leaked defence documents about allegations of unlawful killings by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The raid seems to be linked to the fact that the whistleblower, David McBride, was in court last Thursday (30/5/19) defending charges relating to him leaking the defence documents. But David McBride has admitted leaking the defence papers so why raid the ABC? Maybe the raid was more about the AFP/government trying to intimidate whistleblowers and/or the media.

I was on the receiving end of a NSW police raid in June 2017 where they took my computers, charged me over an email I had sent to judges of the NSW Supreme Court but dropped the charges later because they were frivolous and vexatious. (Click here to read more) I was also on the receiving end of a harassing police visit a couple of weeks ago by NSW police. (Click here to read more) So, I know what it is like to be harassed by the police on behalf of corrupt government employees and be in a situation where you have to defend yourself as best you can. When the police or authorities harass any media in any way it needs to get widespread coverage by all media.

The ABC and News Corp etc have been happy to help cover-up abuses by government agencies trying to silence journalists when it has suited them by failing to report it as they should. They are now crying wolf saying they need the public’s help and support when the reality is if they had’ve been doing their jobs in the first place protecting all journalists from government intervention, threats and bullying then the ABC and News Corp would likely not be in the situation they are.

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27 replies »

  1. Spot on, went many complaining when you took on corruption and got sent to jail in a related process. Interesting to see how this is going to play out because of course it could all be part of a huge PR exercise with the federal government showing that their mouthpiece isn’t beyond the reach of the law. If I were a betting man I would chuck a few dollars on no-one going to jail let alone being charge. The government comes out smelling of roses, we’re transparent , strong but fair blah blah blah

  2. Especially agree with your first 2 pars about the bleating selective media.

    Also keep in mind young Annika who I know, is very ambitious ( which is fine) and having 1 Walkley, clearly knows how the game works.
    I do not think Annika would be the slightest bit worried about the prospect of being gaoled, but rather quite confident of the boost to her career and the possibility of the likely Awards that might ultimately come her way out of this. The bleating media will work hard for that because it will reflect back on them!

  3. My personal experience is that the “main stream” media are a bunch of cowardly toe sucking useless good for nothing bastards, (that’s the polite version) on the planet ! I have good reason for my statements, eventually I will be able to reveal all, it evolves PERJURY, PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE, AND CRIMINAL DEFAMATION, amongst other matters, I have put this to a number of senior judges in Australia, none of them discounted my findings!

  4. This crackdown by the Morrison government occurs a day after the U.S.-based democracy watchdog Freedom House released their Annual Report which found press freedom is declining around the world, right alongside political rights and civil liberties and that global press freedom fell to its lowest point in more than a decade due to continued crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian states and unprecedented threats to journalists in traditionally free societies.We have the dubious honour of joining those countries experiencing declining press freedoms and moving moving from a country with traditionally free press to a country “where new forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike.” to quote from Sarah Repucci of Freedom House.What an achievement!

  5. Here’s my take. Morrison is copying Trump. We are now living under a dictatorship with scomo and spud at the helm. They are currently out of the country and scomo has today said that the government did not even know that the raids were happening.

    Pull the other one, scomo! You might hear a different tune.

  6. Before jumping to judgment on the AFP lets wait and see if they pursue the journalist or, if they find him/her the leaker?

  7. When private citizen whistle blowers went to the press for help, the press ignored them. Now the press might need our support to help them expose how they are being treated by the government. An interesting turn around.

  8. This is an interesting turn of events for us all to ponder. The real question is why? Why is the Govt playing the bad cop role against journos right now?

    You ask, “why did the AFP wait 14 months to raid her house? It was obvious to many that it was 14 months since she published her story but only 3 weeks after the federal election so it seems that AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, who earns over $600,000 per year, didn’t want to upset his political bosses.”

    Just for argument’s sake, let’s assume this doesn’t have anything to do with local politics, and more to do with international politics. As they say, nothing happens by accident in politics…

    With Julian Assange in jail in the UK, and facing extradition to the US and Sweden on fake charges, maybe they’re simply trying to deflect attention away from that issue, because if we look there too closely, the files he dumped when arrested are incredibly damning, exposing a whole bunch of criminal activities conducted and financed by us – taxpayers.

    The effect of their actions speak louder than their words about them, so it’s best to consider the broader effects, rather than the words, or small scale effects. Therefore, these actions are promoting the idea that journalists who report the bitter truth about Govt shenanigans will be hunted down and bullied into submission. This will tend to frighten off the majority of pretend journos, and that may well be the true goal. Government does its best to keep us divided and in fear so we don’t think too much about what they’re up to and potentially unite. If that happens, it’s game over for the criminals who are profiting handsomely, and acquiring unlimited power from our ignorance and division. In that context, this seems to be a distraction, something to keep us running around wondering what’s going on so we don’t comprehend the bigger agenda and organise an effective counter force focused on addressing the cause of all our problems, feral government with too much power.

  9. Might this advent have something to do with Trump’s visit to the UK and a confrontation with Theresa May over her (and Cameron before her) Security Services and their GCHQ agents actively participating in the attempted take-down of Trump?

    It’s highly likely that the entire Five Eyes Agreement will be under scrutiny and its continuation under review.

    After all, Downer’s active involvement in an attempted ‘sting operation’ against Trump, while a serving representative of the Australian Govt on foreign soil has never been properly investigated.

    Perhaps if the entire 5 Eyes structure is now under review, the local spooks are in panic mode and suddenly chasing up 14 month old whistleblower cases to tie up loose ends … lock ’em up and shut ’em up.

    The Useful Idiots of the Corporate (and ABC/BBC) Media have worked double-time at discrediting Assange, Snowden and Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) in their attempts at blowing the whistle on the grievous wrongs of Government against the Law and their own citizens.

    Whatever their protests and pleas for protection now – it’s too little, and far too late.

      • In the UK election of an EU MEP, a rightwing individual received 2% while the entire Tory contingent received 9%. The People have indeed spoken.

        He was also entirely de-platformed by social media and his accounts to receive donations closed down, while no Media would take any of his adverts.

        In addition, video abounds on-line actually showing a contingent of police officers escorting hundreds of black-clad masked protesters across the suburbs to the location of his family-friendly rally; police standing by watching as the foul-mouthed thugs hurled rocks and bottles at women and children who were quickly ushered into vehicles in order to protect them. No arrests were made.

        Having closely followed this man’s fortunes (or govt-engineered misfortunes) over several years to find out who he is and what he’s doing, and having watched all the videos exposing his persecution by police, the judiciary and Her Majesty’s prison system, I’m satisfied that he’s a genuine whistleblower who is literally putting his life at risk to expose Govt/Police/Media & Judicial corruption.

        Diving down the Tommy Robinson rabbit-hole is a truly disturbing experience and a very grubby one. The British people who’ve ignored Media bias and untruths about him DO know him better than we do, and they’ve rallied in support in their many thousands.

      • I’ve had a quick look at the rantings that come out of his own mouth on Youtube and I fully appreciate why he only received 2% of the vote.

      • It’s hard to escape the irony – those who are selective about who is, and who is not entitled to Free Speech, are those who demand it for themselves.

  10. Blackswan, and I guess that name is a subtle clue that you’re based in WA. Pearce, perhaps? Anyhow, I find it most intriguing that Tommy Robinson’s real name is Lennon! Reminds me of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band and Apple Records…

    Tommy Robinson behaves like a created creature with the job of inciting racial and religious tension. He is a nut job, whose rantings have been orchestrated to harmonize with a particular breed of moron, which has been created chemically in the beginning, or subsequent to their “berth”. Fake heroes are a particularly effective tactic that is used to dispirit the masses over time, rendering us obedient brain dead slaves.

    Aldous Huxley worked for a time at an advanced chemical plant in northeast England. It was probably some time after that that he said, “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution”

    Tommy Robinson is very likely to be part of that operation.

    • Blackswan, it’s hard to escape the irony that a Black swan event is something random and unexpected, yet your comment is hardly random, or unexpected, is it? You pretend to infer Shane’s comment was somehow limiting Tommy Robinson’s right to speak garbage, but that’s nothing compared to what Shane’s endured, and he didn’t speak garbage. You will defend Tommy saying he’s been harassed by the authorities too, but that is pure theatre, and you probably know that better than anyone.

    • Peter – no, not a state emblem – merely a nod to a high school science teacher who told us of the Black Swan theory in science and economics. For centuries it had been known that swans can only be white; black swans were an evident impossibility. But when Europeans finally discovered they indeed existed in the Antipodes it became a cautionary tale in science … never assume anything. Always look for the black swan to disprove your own theory.

      Huxley was an interesting man, and a teacher of George Orwell for a time, but I think his quote perfectly describes the modern phenomenon of our digital age … not only the drug culture, but television, phones and social media … the current hive mind being the result.

      As for Robinson’s “rantings” – they are born of his rage at his wife and his mother being threatened with acid attacks, his children being threatened with abduction and rape, of his house burned down with his family inside, of constantly moving them to yet another ‘safe house’ … and all because of his temerity in calling convicted child rapists for what they are – Muslim paedophiles.

      Similarly, in Australia, we have a citizen journalist naming judges, lawyers and officers of the court as corrupt paedophiles, and he too has been jailed for his refusal to be intimidated.

      I’d have thought the parallels were obvious.

      • Tommy Robinson is nothing more than a common criminal with a history of assault and fraud etc and putting trials at risk as per Wikipedia which explains why even though he has had national media coverage in the UK he could still only get 2% of the vote at a recent UK election. The irony here is that the article is about an Australian issue and Blackswan wants to talk about a 2-bit nutter in the UK which has nothing to do with the article. That shows disrespect for the issues raised in the article and the effort I have made writing it. So no more wasting time on Tommy Robinson.

  11. Admire your commitment to exposing corruption, Shane, and you sure don’t hold back. Few Australians would have the ticker to follow your example, me included. Being imprisoned for your beliefs is not an appealing prospect.

    You certainly make some good points about journalistic hypocrisy and pomposity. As a former sub-editor on various news corpse and fairyfax/nein publications, I’m well aware of their shortcomings and speciousness.

    This article by Damien Cave, The New York Times’ Australian bureau chief, caught my eye, particularly the quotes by Johan Lidberg, an associate professor of journalism at Monash University who works with the United Nations on global press freedom, and Joseph Fernandez, a media law expert at Curtin University in Perth.

    The aggressive approach — which Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has defended — fits with a global trend. Democracies from the United States to the Philippines are increasingly targeting journalists to ferret out leaks, silence critics and punish information sharing — with President Trump leading the verbal charge by calling journalists “the enemy of the people.”

    But even among its peers, Australia stands out. No other developed democracy holds as tight to its secrets, experts say, and the raids are just the latest example of how far the country’s conservative government will go to scare officials and reporters into submission.

    Australia does not have a constitutional protection for freedom of speech. But its criminal code does have Section 70, which makes it a crime for any public official to share information without “lawful authority or excuse.”

    That “secrecy foundation” — the law cited in the warrant against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the target of Wednesday’s raids — essentially states that no one in government can share information without a supervisor’s permission. It has been on the books since 1914, just after the outbreak of World War I, and is modeled on Britain’s draconian Official Secrets Act of 1911.

    “To be perfectly frank, this is an absolute international embarrassment. You’ve got a mature liberal democracy that pursues and hunts down whistle-blowers and tries to kill the messenger,” Lidberg said.

    Since the 9/11 attacks, Australia has passed or amended more than 60 laws related to secrecy, spying and terrorism, according to independent studies.

    “That’s more than any other mature liberal democracy on the globe. A lot of countries have amended terrorism laws, but none like Australia.”

    Fernandez said it was hard to imagine how any of these articles could have been construed as a threat to national security rather than simply an embarrassment for officials and politicians.

    “No turf, no terrain is off the books,” said Fernandez, a former newspaper editor in Malaysia, where crackdowns on the press have become more common. “The law is very very wide reaching, and it is very disturbing.

    “Countries with a much worse track record with freedom of expression and democracy, it gives them a free go,”

    “Countries who were looked up to for moral authority are the very ones who are now committing the sort of egregious assaults on freedom of expression and democracy itself. They have undermined their moral authority.”

  12. What The Guardian’s former editor, Alan Rusbridger so sagely said about Julian Assange: “You may not like Assange, but you’re next.” is highly redolent of what theologian Martin Niemoller (who initially was a supporter of Adolf Hitler but then vehemently opposed the Nazis and then of course was imprisoned in 2 concentration camps from 1938-1945, narrowly escaping execution!) so famously said in 1946 about the cowardice and apathy of German intellectuals who — just like the ABC and News Corp — could have done something, but of course just sat back and did nothing whatsoever, begins:

    “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist,” and concludes, “Then they came for me – and there was no-one left to speak for me.”

    So the ABC and News Corp now have no option left but to either suck it up whilst having ’emselves a ‘hard hit’…or get off the pot.

    When I heard either Andrew Colvin or his deputy on the radio saying, inter alia: “No-one is above the law.”, it clearly came across that in his saying it the way he did, he was trying to proudly project the image that he was the law incarnate, and that if he wants to direct any number of AFP officers to investigate something for no good reason whatsoever, but to just get them out of the office so that they can hone their skulking skills in harassing law-abiding people but going about their business, then no-one should feel any need to complain about it!

    It’s high time that the AFP ceased sending its bohemian bother boys out on a man’s errand.

  13. Thanks for this article. Few people have your courage and conviction. While attacks on any media are worrying, the mainstream media seems to be missing a more important point which is that ordinary private citizens are subject to these highly regressive and secretive anti-terror laws in Australia. Not even the USA has laws as restrictive as ours. Also combined with the effect of facial recognition being used in places like the Toowoomba state library and other public areas without the public’s knowledge or consent.

  14. Free speech has always meant the right of individuals to question the government in a democracy, not for private individuals to criticize each other which is why defamation laws exist (to restrain individuals from slander). Now according to our government so-called free speech means making it harder to question government power and easier for private citizens to engage in hate speech by trying to weaken anti-discrimination laws. In Australia the right to free speech is an implied right in our Constitution of the ‘right to political communication’ recognizing the tradition of free speech against the government. Although we have this implied right, Australia desperately needs a bill of rights. In the UK the bill of rights comes from parliamentary legislation, and in the US they have one based on their constitution. Australia has a hybrid of these political systems, the ‘Washminister’ system, which has left us with a hole where a bill of rights should be.

  15. I have been dropping Shane`s name and tribulations to the media forums since his first imprisonment. Few reply. This week, the Guardian`s mod deleted a comment on Shane`s crusade without giving a reason, so even GA is a tad twitchy. Thank Odin we still have the Internet to press (Ha!) the media in Australia.

  16. Better some opposition than none! Yes, I agree with you Shane, where were these journos when you’ve been attacked time and time again? Most of them are responsible for the LNP Govt being re-elected – and tradition shows that under the LNP Govt’s since Menzies on; freedom of speech is never a supported vehicle. Journalists need to get off the Extreme Right Wing Train if they want to survive in the future. They made their bed for the next 3 years – and probably the public’s too – social media will be the next target after news and TV journalism. 1984 here we come! Libspeak is fast becoming the preferred language!

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