ABC chair Ita Buttrose condemns AFP raid as 'clearly designed to intimidate'

Buttrose vows to fight any attempt to ‘muzzle’ the ABC and says she has had a frank conversation with the communications minister

The ABC’s chair, Ita Buttrose, has said raids by the federal police on its headquarters were “designed to intimidate” and warned the government she will fight “any attempts to muzzle” the national broadcaster.

The former journalist and publisher says she has registered her “grave concern” about the unprecedented raids on the ABC and News Corp over two days and she won’t countenance any interference with the public’s right to know.

“An untrammelled media is important to the public discourse and to democracy,” Buttrose said. “It is the way in which Australian citizens are kept informed about the world and its impact on their daily lives.

“Observance of this basic tenet of the community’s right to know has driven my involvement in public life and my career in journalism for almost five decades.

“In a frank conversation with the minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly designed to intimidate.”

Buttrose’s statement is the strongest condemnation of the raids to come out of the ABC hierarchy this week and marks her leadership style as being more independent of government than her predecessor, Justin Milne.

She was confirmed as chair of the ABC five months after the former chair resigned in the wake of allegations of political interference.

The 77-year-old former women’s magazine editor and TV personality was a captain’s pick by the Coalition, emerging as a surprise candidate after the global headhunters’ shortlist of three men was rejected.

“It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: 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. Mr Fletcher declined to provide such assurances, while noting the ‘substantial concern’ registered by the Corporation.

“There has 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.

“Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking difficult questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface. Neither the journalists nor their sources should be treated as criminals.

“In my view, legitimate journalistic endeavours that expose flawed decision-making or matters that policy makers and public servants would simply prefer were secret, should not automatically and conveniently be classed as issues of national security.

“The onus must always be on the public’s right to know. If that is not reflected sufficiently in current law, then it must be corrected.”


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Dutton denies AFP raid on intelligence officer an attempt at 'intimidation'
Minister responds to raid on Canberra home of Cameron Gill and maintains government not planning to extend domestic spy powers

Amy Remeikis

05, Sep, 2019 @3:31 AM

Article image
Home affairs refuses to divulge how many warrants sought to investigate journalists
Labor to ask how it can assess the impact of security laws without knowing how many reporters are in agencies’ sights

Paul Karp

19, Sep, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Peter Dutton denies prior knowledge of AFP raids on ABC and News Corp
Home affairs minister says police investigations are independent of government as he praised the agency’s ‘important’ work

Sarah Martin and Kate Lyons

05, Jun, 2019 @9:26 AM

Article image
Labor defends record on press freedom amid criticism it was 'soft' on law changes
Opposition says it tried to add safeguards to Coalition laws that reduced whistleblower protections

Amy Remeikis

09, Jun, 2019 @2:32 AM

Article image
Concrete action rather than nice words are needed on press freedom | Lenore Taylor
We have joined forces to fight back against laws that effectively criminalise journalism and penalise whistleblowing

Lenore Taylor

20, Oct, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
News Corp accuses government of dismissing media’s concerns after AFP raids
Kristina Keneally calls for a review into press freedom but senior Murdoch executive Campbell Reid says legal changes should be made now

Paul Karp

12, Jun, 2019 @12:14 AM

Article image
Dutton defends raids while Labor challenges Coalition over press freedom
Anthony Albanese accuses home affairs minister of epitomising ‘secrecy and a lack of scrutiny’

Paul Karp

07, Jun, 2019 @1:17 AM

Article image
AFP media raids: defence agencies refuse to say if minister was told before leaks referred to police
Defence department says ‘inappropriate’ to say whether Marise Payne was consulted first

Sarah Martin

10, Jun, 2019 @1:26 AM

Article image
ABC chair Ita Buttrose accuses government of 'political interference' in draft letter to Paul Fletcher
Exclusive: Buttrose mounts robust defence of broadcaster’s independence in response to questions about Four Corners’ episode Inside the Canberra Bubble

Amanda Meade

14, Dec, 2020 @2:29 AM

Article image
ABC vows to continue reporting 'without fear' after police raid Sydney offices
Broadcaster’s managing director says AFP raid over 2017’s The Afghan Files series ‘raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press’

Amy Remeikis

05, Jun, 2019 @1:42 AM