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Australia 16 November 2004

Reporters Without Borders condemns serious threat to investigative journalism

Reporters Without Borders has condemned police methods after a raid on the newspaper National Indigenous Times and seizure of six official documents on government policy towards the aborigine population.

The magazine’s editor, Chris Graham, said the government was embarrassed by revelations made by the magazine - picked up by some country’s major newspapers - of a government project to restrict welfare benefits to aborigines.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said in a letter to Australian prime minister John Howard that the police had "violated the principle of the protection of sources, which is fundamental to guaranteeing independent investigative journalism."

"If those responsible for this police raid on a editorial office are not sanctioned, it will be the protection of sources, the cornerstone of press freedom, that is under threat in Australia," said Robert Ménard, Reporters Without Borders secretary general.

According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, five federal police officers searched the magazine’s Canberra offices on 11 November 2004. They had a warrant to seize two official documents obtained by the magazine but they took six on the policy of John Howard’s government towards aborigines.

Some of them had already been published in the magazine, which is largely devoted to covering Australia’s aboriginal community.

"I can assure you there are more revelations to come and it’s not pretty," Graham told ABC radio.

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