Image: (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)
The national broadcaster says a raid on its Sydney offices over a 2017 story that Australian defence personnel may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan "raises concerns over freedom of the press".
The ABC vowed to protect its sources even as the federal police raid was continuing at the broadcaster's offices in Ultimo on Wednesday.
A warrant indicates digital forensic officers will target documents and computers linked to reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark as well as news director Gaven Morris, the ABC reports.
The news organisation says the raid is in relation to a July 2017 story that revealed "hundreds of pages of secret Defence Force documents leaked to the ABC give an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia's elite special forces in Afghanistan including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children".
The ABC reported at the time that some of the cases detailed in the documents were being investigated "as possible unlawful killings".
"It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way," the ABC said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defence matters."
The ABC said it stood by its journalists, would protect its sources and continue to report "without fear or favour" on national security and intelligence issues in the public interest.
The Australian Federal Police in a statement said the raid was "in relation to allegations of publishing classified material contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act".
It said the search warrant related to a referral received on July 11, 2017, from the Defence Force chief and the then-acting secretary for Defence.
The federal police said the warrant was duly authorised and no arrests were planned.
ABC executive editor John Lyons tweeted that ABC lawyers asked the AFP if there was any connection with a raid on News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst on Tuesday and the police said "No"
The AFP raided Smethurst's Canberra home over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
The AFP on Wednesday confirmed officially that: "This (ABC) activity is not linked to a search warrant executed in Canberra yesterday."
Lyons tweeted that ABC lawyers had told the AFP officers: "We waive no rights, and reserve right to take injunction against the warrant."
© AAP 2019