One unusual aspect of last week’s terror raids that’s starting to
attract some attention is the extraordinary pictures the newspaper
photographers and TV networks obtained of the police going about their
work of rounding up the 18 suspected terrorists, most of them in early morning raids.

Police tip-offs about these sorts of major operations are common
enough. It’s good PR for police to disseminate images that show them
successfully going about their work, and as an added bonus tip-offs
about major operations can be handed out as rewards to the most
compliant hacks.

It’s a dodgy arrangement at the best of times, and when the police
operation is a series of raids on terror suspects that the Government
claims as vindication of tough terror laws this everyday police/media
collusion can become an even more serious threat to accurate and objective
reporting.

One Crikey subscriber wrote to the ABC to find out where the footage came from and received this reply:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your email regarding the pictures used in Tuesday night’s story
on the police raids in Sydney. The pictures you saw were supplied by the
police.

It is common practice for police to videotape any large-scale raids as they
can use the vision for evidence and training purposes. It’s also common for the
police to release this vision to the media if it will not materially affect
their case.

It is ABC News & Current Affairs policy to acknowledge the source of
these pictures, as we did on Tuesday night.

Once again, thank you for your enquiry and I hope this answers your
question.

Regards,

John Mulhall
Network Editor
ABC TV News

Our subscriber writes:

I find the statement that ‘It’s also common for the police to release this
vision to the media if it will not materially affect their case’ totally
false. Showing the images of the raid, which as it stands may turn out to be one
of the biggest stories of the year, is totally unethical as it affects not only
the cases of the persons involved but also the cases of unrelated persons
charged with terrorism. The trial of “Jihad Jack” Joseph Terrence, has been
adjourned until a later date over the amount of media attention on the raids,
and a suppression order has been placed on the fact sheet of the raid cases, but
it is possibly all too late as a huge amount of damage has already been done to
the chances of the accused having a fair trial. The lack of ethics of the police
and media is materially affecting the cases of the as yet innocent people, and
should be investigated as to why the media and the police seem to be so friendly
with each other over details that should have never be made public, and never
would have been made public under any other situation.

It’s a fair point, though the images of the police raids are
probably less of an impediment to a fair trial than the hysterical
commentary by columnists and politicians wanting to claim –
irrespective of the fact that nothing has yet been proven – that these
raids somehow vindicate the Government’s approach on terror.

The real story here is how the images – either distributed by
police or obtained through police cooperation – have been used to pump
up the media to present the raids as an instant “success,” even though
the only
way to judge that will be whether convictions can be eventually
secured.

When it comes to this sort of spin police are masters. The wide
dissemination of the images of the raids was utterly predictable
because it served the best interests of police, the media, and the
Government, a win-win-win situation for everybody – except the suspected terrorists and their lawyers.