Fact Check: AFP Access to Journalist Metadata

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is aware of comments made by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in relation to the AFP’s access of journalists’ metadata.

The comments made are inaccurate and distort the nature of the AFP’s role and obligations when investigating possible breaches of Section 70 of the Crimes Act (1914).

It is important to note at the outset the provisions of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (1979) (TIA Act) strictly regulate the disclosure of information. Outside of specific exceptions, none of which apply in these circumstances, it may constitute an offence under the TIA Act for the AFP to provide information in answer to these queries.

However, the AFP can confirm investigations relating to breaches of Section 70 of the Crimes Act (1914) are not about targeting journalists. The offence relates to a Commonwealth officer disclosing Commonwealth information without authorisation.

The aim of AFP investigations into offences under Section 70 of the Crimes Act (1914) is to identify the source of the disclosure, and then determine whether they had the appropriate authority to release that information.

AFP investigators are required to assess all the relevant evidence in every matter. This includes enquiries into the classification of the information concerned, how it was handled and who had access to it.

AFP officers will continue to meet all the requirements of the TIA Act in order to lawfully access any telecommunications data that is relevant to an investigation in accordance with TIA Act, and will continue to lawfully investigate those persons who breach Section 70 of the Crimes Act (1914).