Australian Home Affairs Minister Puts Foreign Journalists on Notice

Australian Home Affairs Minister Puts Foreign Journalists on Notice
Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, on March 5, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned foreign journalists operating in Australia will be under scrutiny of federal agencies if they are providing a “slanted view to a particular community.”

‘'If people are here as journalists and they’re reporting fairly on the news, then that’s fine,” Dutton told the ABC television’s Insiders program.

His comments came after a week when two Australian journalists had to be evacuated from China having taken shelter in Australian diplomatic compounds after being questioned by Chinese police.

Dutton declined to confirm that four Chinese journalists were contacted by Australia’s intelligence agency in June, only to say there was “ASIO activity.”

“Where ASIO has sufficient grounds for the execution of a search warrant, or for activities otherwise, then they'll undertake that activity,” he said.

“If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there’s evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then ASIO and the Australian Federal Police and other agencies will act.”

He said there was no evidence yet that the actions by the Australian agencies was what lead to Chinese police questioning Australian journalists in China.

Dutton declined to comment on a third Australian journalist, Cheng Lei, who is being held by Chinese authorities.

“We want to work very closely with the Chinese in relation to that matter, and we'll continue to do that,” he said.

News Corp newspapers reported the AFP raided a Canberra apartment block housing Chinese embassy staff in May.

But Dutton described it as “day-to-day community policing.”

“It was related to either a drug matter or to another domestic matter, so as I understand it,” he said.

Colin Brinsden in Canberra