Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crackdown on journalist suggests past isn't dead

A POLICE raid on the home of a journalist who reported on Australian efforts to spy on Japan, China and North and South Korea, has raised fresh concerns about government crackdowns on free speech.
Philip Dorling, a journalist at The Canberra Times , who was raided by police over a leak in 2000, wrote in June about classified documents prepared for the Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon.
The leaked documents were prepared after the election by the Defence Intelligence Organisation and reportedly indicated that Australia had closely monitored Japan's nuclear power industry.
Federal police yesterday confirmed officers had searched Dorling's home and car.
A spokesman for Mr Fitzgibbon said yesterday his office had not been involved in referring the matter to the federal police. A spokesman for the Department of Defence would not comment, saying it was inappropriate to discuss a continuing investigation.
Dorling said police had seized several documents from his house. "I've just had a fair violation of my privacy earlier today," he told ABC radio.
Eight years ago his home was raided when he was working as an adviser for the Labor foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton, following leaked intelligence documents about East Timor.
Yesterday's raid comes after a crackdown on leaks under the Howard government, which appears to have continued under the Rudd Government. Three months ago, police investigated the records of the Channel Nine journalist Laurie Oakes after leaks about the Government's FuelWatch program.
A coalition of media groups, Australia's Right to Know, condemned yesterday's raid and called on governments to pass shield laws to protect whistleblowers and journalists.
A spokesman, Greg Baxter, said it raised serious questions about free speech. "There is no evidence that national security or public safety is at risk or that this information could lead to a serious crime in this instance and therefore there are simply no legitimate grounds for today's police raid," he said.
Fairfax Media, which owns The Canberra Times and the Herald , also condemned the raid. "Fairfax Media is gravely concerned by this legal assault on one of our journalists for doing his job," said a spokesman, Bruce Wolpe. "A federal police raid on the home of a journalist cuts to the heart of the operation of a free press, and is unacceptable." (

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