The federal government is attempting to distance itself from two police raids on journalists in as many days, while questions arise over the scope of press freedom in Australia.
Federal police officers raided the ABC's Sydney offices on Wednesday over stories published in 2017 that suggested Australian troops may have committed war crimes.
ABC editorial director Craig McMurtrie says officers are relying on a section of the Crimes Act which did not include a public interest defence when the stories were published.
The ABC has vowed to protect its sources even as the federal police raid was continuing at the broadcaster's offices in Ultimo.
The raid comes a day after the AFP searched the home, computer and mobile phone of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst over a story she wrote last year detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
The raids have been widely panned by the ABC, News Corp, the media union, press freedom advocates and the federal opposition.
Attorney-General Christian Porter on Wednesday morning said he had not yet been briefed on the initial raid.
"I had no idea it was going to happen, and that's because these matters are totally independent of the executive government," he told ABC's Radio National before the broadcaster's offices were targeted.
"The idea, seriously, that the Morrison government or any minister in the Morrison government was somehow involved in the investigation, or the decision, or the timing of the decision, I mean it's absolutely absurd."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg later refused to comment when repeatedly questioned on the raids.
"But we do respect the independence of the fourth estate," he told reporters in Canberra.
ABC managing director David Anderson says the raid raises legitimate concerns over press freedom and the public scrutiny of national security and defence issues.
"The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest," he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said democracy relied on freedom of the press.
"The government has questions to answer here about what they knew," he told reporters in Mackay.
"It is quite frankly outrageous that seven officers spent seven and a half hours in her (Ms Smethurst's) home."
He said the initial News Corp story had merit as Australians had a right to know if the government had proposals to interfere with their privacy.
Labor has asked for a briefing.
Former Labor prime minister and vocal News Corp critic Kevin Rudd says the raid was "way over the top", particularly as Ms Smethurst was reporting on basic civil liberties.
Centre Alliance plans to follow the issue up later in the year at Senate estimates hearings, while the Greens have called for an inquiry into declining press freedom.
Marcus Strom from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the consecutive raids showed no media organisation was immune from the government's attacks.
"Police raiding journalists is becoming normalised and it has to stop.These raids are about intimidating journalists and media organisations because of their truth-telling."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier brushed off concerns about the police raid on Ms Smethurst's home, saying he's never troubled about laws being upheld.
The prime minister said he supported the powers that police and security agencies have under current laws, and added there were no government plans to give journalists greater protection.
Australian Associated Press
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