The Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Board, Ita Buttrose (pictured) has registered her ‘grave’ concern over the recent police raid on offices of the national broadcaster.
Ms Buttrose said the raid was unprecedented – both for the ABC and for herself.
She said that in a “frank conversation” with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, she made clear that the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was “clearly designed to intimidate”.
“It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events,” Ms Buttrose said.
“Raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy-makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account,” she said.
“I also asked for assurances that the ABC not be subject to future raids of this sort.”
She said the Minister declined to provide the assurances although he noted her ‘substantial concern’.
She said there had been much reference in recent days to the need to observe the rule of law.
“While there are legitimate matters of national security that the ABC will always respect, the ABC Act and Charter are explicit about the importance of an independent public broadcaster to Australian culture and democracy,” Ms Buttrose said.
“Neither the journalists nor their sources should be treated as criminals.”
She said that legitimate journalistic endeavours exposing flawed decision-making or matters that a government’s policy-makers and PS staffers may prefer to be secret, should not automatically be classed as issues of national security.
“The onus must always be on the public’s right to know,” Ms Buttrose said.
“If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected,” she said.