Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Australian journalist Annika Smethurst had her home raided Tuesday by police.

Australian journalist Annika Smethurst had her home raided Tuesday by police. (Image: Annika Smethurst, Twitter)

'Outrageous': Police Raid Home of Aussie Journalist Who Reported on Secret Domestic Spying Program

"If you are not concerned over a journalist being raided on the basis of 'national security concerns' for reporting on the potential over reach of Australia's security agencies into your lives, there is something seriously wrong."

Eoin Higgins

Australian police raided the home of one of the country's prominent journalists Tuesday, raising questions about press freedom in that country and across the western world. 

Journalist Annika Smethurst, the national politics editor at Sydney's Sunday Telegraph, was the target of the early morning raid. Police served a warrant at her home related to materials she obtained and used in a story on April 29, 2018, about an Australian government plan to expand surveillance capabilities for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). 

In response to the raid, News Corp Australia, Smethurst's employer, decried the police actions as "a dangerous act of intimidation."

"What's gone on this morning sends a clear and dangerous signals to journalists and newsrooms across Australia," the company said in a statement. "This will chill public interest reporting."

In Smethurst's 2018 story, she detailed how the ASD intended to seek greater powers over surveillance targets—including Australian nationals, which the ASD is not permitted to surveil under Australian law. The new rules, if put in place, would have allowed the agency to access the private information of Australian citizens "without a trace," reported Smethurst, citing "top secret letters between the heads of home affairs and defence."

Those secret documents provided the impetus for the raid, according to a police statement. 

"This warrant relates to the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia's national security," the Australian Federal Police statement read.

Reaction in Australia and around the world sounded the alarm over the heavy-handed tactics of the police. 

"If you are not concerned over a journalist being raided on the basis of 'national security concerns' for reporting on the potential over reach of Australia's security agencies into your lives, there is something seriously wrong," tweeted Guardian Australia political reporter Amy Remeikis.

In a statement, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union that represents Australian journalists, called the raid "outrageous."

"Australians are entitled to know what their governments do in their name," said union president Marcus Strom. "That clearly includes plans by government agencies to digitally spy on Australians by hacking into our emails, bank accounts and text messages."

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a global public interest organization, also criticized the government's attack on Smethurst. In a statement, the committee's executive director Robert Mahoney decried the attempt to "intimidate" journalists doing their jobs.

"Journalists have a duty to publish information, including leaked information, that lets the people know what the government is doing in their name," said Mahoney. "The raid on Sunday Telegraph journalist Annika Smethurst is clearly designed to intimidate national security reporters from doing such a public service."

A number of commentators connected the Smethurst case to what they saw as a global attack on the press.

Journalist Ahemd Zidan of CPJ tweeted that Smethurst was one of many.

"In the past four months, there have been at least nine journalists who were subject to leak investigations in three democratic countries," tweeted Zidan.

The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, drew a connection between Smethurst and her fellow Australian Julian Assange, who was indicted in May in the U.S. on espionage charges for his actions as the publisher and editor of WikiLeaks.

"There's a movement throughout the west to turn journalists who report on and publish classified information into criminals," tweeted Greenwald. "This thuggish Australia search of Annika Smethurst's home is more evidence of that."

"But the greatest threat is the Assange indictment," Greenwald added. "That's the blueprint."

Smethurst wasn't the only Australian journalist threatened by authorities Tuesday. Hours after the raid, broadcaster Ben Fordham revealed that the government had opened an investigation into Fordham's reporting on refugee boats turned away from the Australian coast. Fordham said he would not be bullied into divulging his source. 

"The chances of me revealing my sources is zero," Fordham said. "Not today, not tomorrow, next week or next month. There is not a hope in hell of that happening."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo