||Issue No. 247||19 November 2004|
In Defence of Jeff
Interview: The Reich Stuff
Economics: Crime and Punishment
Environment: Beyond The Wedge
International: The End Of The Lucky Country
Safety: Tests Fail Tests
Politics: Labo(u)r Day
Human Rights: Arabian Lights
History: Labour's Titan
Review: Foxy Fiasco
Poetry: Then I Saw The Light
The Locker Room
Shawly we’ve heard enough
Decline of The American Empire
Cops Raid Press
Australian Federal Police agents executed a search warrant on National Indigenous Times' offices in Canberra in search of two cabinet-in-confidence documents, the details of which had already been reported by the Financial Review and The Australian newspapers.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) condemned the police raid.
"Authorities cannot use criminal procedure to attain the identities of journalists' sources - which is clearly what they attempted to do," says MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren. "The foundation of our democracy relies on journalists' ability to report matters of public interest. To do this they rely on the good faith of their sources."
Police carried a warrant to seize two documents but left with six.
The documents reveal a number of tougher government initiatives to promote 'good behaviour' in indigenous communities. The Australian Financial Review picked up the story yesterday and attributed NIT with possession of the leaked documents.
"The Government's attempt to intimidate this small publication is an absolute disgrace," says Warren. "In matters of social responsibility and welfare those in authority need to be held accountable. This can't happen if media outlets, big and small, continue to be suffocated."
Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to John Howard that the police had "violated the principle of the protection of sources, which is fundamental to guaranteeing independent investigative journalism."
"If those responsible for this police raid on a editorial office are not sanctioned, it will be the protection of sources, the cornerstone of press freedom, that is under threat in Australia," said Robert Ménard, Reporters Without Borders secretary general.
The National Indigenous Times has received confirmation from other media outlets that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ordered the search warrant.
Cabinet Secretary Peter Shergold warned that police raids on newspapers that publish leaked cabinet documents would become routine.
Dr Shergold was the federal official who reported the matter to police.
"Labor will watch with interest to see if Andrew Bolt is raided over leaked national security documents, or indeed if those that provided the leaked documents are charged with breaches of the Crimes Act," said ALP Indigenous affairs spokesperson Kim Carr. "Why is the Howard Government so concerned about the Indigenous Times documents, when so many other leaks have not been referred to police?"
The National Indigenous Times had more embarrassing papers ready to publish, editor Chris Graham said.
Graham said the Prime Minister's Department ordered the raid because the documents, which the newspaper published, were embarrassing to the government.
"This government has been dishonest in the way it's dealt with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal affairs generally and I can understand them not wanting it to get out, but I can't for the life of me understand how they thought raiding our offices would have assisted their cause."
Among the documents was a letter from former Indigenous affairs minister Philip Ruddock to Prime Minister John Howard in April 2003, saying that nearly all government ministers had failed to undertake a major review of how their departments could better serve the aboriginal community.
Federal Police investigations are continuing.
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