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'Disturbing Time To Be A Journalist': AFP Raid ABC

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have raided the ABC offices in Sydney over a series of investigative stories exposing special forces misconduct in Afghanistan.

The series of stories, authored by investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct carried out by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

The AFP's search warrant names Oakes and Clark as well as Gaven Morris, the ABC's Director of News.

Morris has stood firmly behind the reporting of Oakes and Clark, stating on Twitter that the pair are two of ABC News' "finest journalists" and they are "honest and committed to telling the truth in the Australian Public's interests".

The raid comes one day after the AFP executed a search on the home of a New Corp journalist Annika Smethurst over a 2018 article reporting new powers for Australian intelligence agencies to spy on citizens.

Despite concerns raised by the AFP, executive editor of ABC News and head of investigative journalism John Lyons is live-tweeting the ABC's interactions with the AFP.

Lyons reported the ABC's lawyers have told the AFP that they will not be waiving rights and reserve the right to take an injunction against the warrant.

Lyons added that the AFP team has stated they will be confining their search to very specific matters related to the Afghan Files and taking material with them.

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ABC lawyers have expressed concern the AFP will try and access a broad range of emails and correspondences, as the warrant lists any material relating to the ABC, the ABC's National Reporting Team, the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Defence, the Chief of Army, and the Special Air Service.

The AFP stated the search warrant was issued by a magistrate and there are no arrests planned in the raid.

They have also asserted that there is no link between the ABC raid and the raid on Smethurst's property yesterday.

ABC IT staff were instructed by AFP officers to search for specific key words in hard drives to find files to hand over.

The operation was observed by ABC lawyers as well as barrister and media specialist Mark Polden, who is overseeing every file the AFP is trying to access.

Lyons described the "confronting scene", watching the AFP officers accessing hard drives.

"AFP officers trying to get into the heart of the ABC's computer system. Is this a free media?" Lyons said.

Around 4,800 files have allegedly been downloaded and ABC's lawyers are negotiating with the AFP what they will be walking away with.

Managing director of the ABC, David Anderson, said that the raid is "highly unusual" and "raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defence matters."

Anderson continued, the "ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest."

What are the Afghan Files?

The Afghan Files were published in 2017 and reported on hundreds of leaked Australian Defence Force documents, which exposed clandestine operations undertaken by elite special forces.

The documents, which were marked as AUSTEO (for Australian Eyes Only) contain descriptions of unlawful killing, including the killing of unarmed men and children.

A culture of "warrior" troops was exposed by the leaked documents, with the files detailing how officers were willing to turn a blind eye to misconduct.

The files also revealed worrying details of incidents such as the severing of hands of dead Taliban fighters by Australian troops.

Leader of the Greens Richard di Natale called on the government to show transparency about the raids, saying "Australians deserve to know what the Government is doing. Journalists should be able to report the facts without looking over their shoulder for the AFP".

"An attack on the press for doing their job is an attack on our democracy."

Kristina Keneally also commented on Twitter that media freedom "is at the cor of our democratic society" and requested that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton "explain what he knew about these two raids".

More to come. 

Main image: Jason Om/ABC News