by Caitlin Johnstone
The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on
journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents
in the span of just two days.
Yesterday the AFP
raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist
Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her
investigative report last year which exposed the fact that the
Australian government has been discussing the possibility of giving
itself unprecedented powers to spy on its own citizens.
Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, seizing
information related to a 2017 investigative report on possible
war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan.
In a third, also ostensibly unrelated incident, another Australian
disclosed yesterday that the Department of Home Affairs has
initiated an investigation of his reporting on a story about asylum
seeker boats which could lead to an AFP criminal case, saying he's
being pressured to disclose his source.
"Why has AFP suddenly
decided to carry out these two raids after the election?"
tweeted Australian Sky News political editor David Speers during
the Sydney raid.
"Did new evidence
really just emerge in both the Annika Smethurst and ABC
"If these raids
unconnected, as AFP reportedly said, it's an extraordinary
tweeted The Conversation chief political
correspondent Michelle Grattan.
"AFP needs to explain
ASAP the timing so long after the stories. It can't be that
inefficient! Must be some explanation - which makes the
‘unconnected' claim even more odd."
It is true that the AFP has
formally denied that there was any
connection between the two raids, and it is in fact difficult to
imagine how the two could be connected apart from their sharing a
common theme of exposing malfeasance that the government wanted kept
If it is true that
they are unconnected, then what changed?
What in the world
could have changed to spark this sudden escalation of the
Australian government's assault on the free press?
Well, if as I
recently you don't think in terms of separate, individual nations,
it's not hard to think of at least one thing that's changed.
and crack down on national security journalism is spreading like
a virus," WikiLeaks
tweeted today in response to the ABC raid.
precedent is already having effect. Journalists must unite and
remember that courage is also contagious."
"The arrest and espionage charges against Assange was just the
beginning, as many in the media, even those who hate Assange,
tweeted Consortium News editor-in-chief Joe Lauria in
response to the News Corp raid.
"The home of a
mainstream Australian journalist was raided Wed. morning by
police because of a story she worked on."
"Shameful news from Australia as the police raid journalists'
offices and homes,"
tweeted legendary Australian journalist John Pilger.
"One warrant allows
them to ‘add, copy, delete or alter' computer files at the ABC.
The assault on Julian Assange was a clear warning to all of us:
it was only the beginning."
If you think about it, it
would have been far less disturbing than the alternative if there
were a connection between the two raids, because the alternative is
vastly more sinister:
that the Australian
government's attitude toward the free press has changed.
And that it has perhaps
done so, as Australia
has been doing for decades, in alignment with
the behavior of the rest of the US-centralized empire.
In an article for Consortium News titled "After Assange's
Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for
Publishing Classified Material", Joe Lauria reminds us that
Australia is not the first nation within the western power alliance
to see such an escalation since the paradigm-shifting imprisonment
of Julian Assange in the UK.
"Police in Paris
arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests
on April 20," Lauria writes.
"One of the
journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody
after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to
police at Gare du Nord train station.
journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police."
"And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to
break down the door,
raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a
freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal
his source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death
the city's elected public defender," Lauria added.
"Police took away
computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes."
So we're seeing a pattern
You can choose to ignore
it or dismiss it with a pleasant story, or you can acknowledge that
we appear to be in the midst of a rapidly escalating shutdown of the
free press in the western world.
There does not necessarily have to be any centrally-planned
conspiracy behind this trend; it can simply be the natural result of
an ailing empire seeing that it's going to need a lot more war, lies
and deception in order to keep from collapsing, and responding
Once the Assange line was
crossed, it could simply have served as a precedent for the other
governments within the empire to begin doing things they'd already
wanted to do anyway.
Julian Assange is the dot of a question mark at the end of a
historically important question which we are all being asked right
That question reads as
Does humanity wish to
create a society that is based on truth and holds power to
account, or does it want the exact opposite?
So far, the general
consensus answer to that question has been going somewhere along the
"We're actually fine
with a headlong plunge into Orwellian dystopia, thanks."
But as the implications
of that answer become clearer and clearer, we may yet see some
stirrings in the other direction before it is too late...