‘Disturbing’: Union demands answers after police raid journalist’s home

‘Disturbing’: Union demands answers after police raid journalist’s home

May 2, 2023

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A journalist inadvertently caught up in a police raid dubbed “disturbing” by the media union has spoken of her shock after photographs documenting the relocation of sacred rock art to make way for Perdaman’s $6 billion urea plant in the Pilbara were seized from her home.

Ngaarda Media lead journalist Eliza Kloser told this masthead she was standing adjacent to the site on the Burrup Peninsula, 20 kilometres north-west of Karratha, about 10am on Friday photographing the relocation of sacred Murujuga artefacts when she was approached by police.

Eliza Kloser’s photo of construction at the site of Perdaman’s urea plant on the Burrup Peninsula. Credit: Eliza Kloser

Kloser said she told them she was a journalist, took photographs and drove off, but said she was then stopped several kilometres down the road by a second police vehicle, breathalysed and asked to get out of the car to allow officers to conduct a search and car safety evaluation.

The Pilbara-based reporter told this masthead she reiterated that she was a photojournalist after being quizzed again about the camera.

Kloser claims she was at the employer share house she lived at for a little over an hour uploading the photographs before Karratha detectives arrived, rummaging through her possessions and searching her bags for 90 minutes before leaving with her SD card.

Ngaarda Media lead journalist Eliza Kloser.Credit: Eliza Kloser

Hours earlier, and unbeknownst to Kloser, her housemate and coworker Gerard Mazza had been arrested and charged with aggravated burglary with intent after allegedly entering a Woodside AGM with a bottle of stench gas and smoke flares as part of a protest against gas exploits on the Burrup Peninsula. It is not yet known how Mazza intends to plead to the charges.

Kloser and her employer insisted that Mazza acted in a personal capacity and that neither had any prior knowledge of his alleged involvement in the incident.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Ngaarda Media expressed concern about the distress caused by the police search and the removal of company property and asked that the SD card be returned immediately.

Kloser, who graduated from university in 2022 and has been working for the independent community broadcaster since, said she had been left shocked by the raid, which took place on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

She said the project had been one of great interest to the publication’s readership, with the sacred site set to be moved ahead of construction amid fears about the potential impact of emissions from what is expected to be the country’s largest gas-fuelled urea plant.

“I understand that the search was related to my housemate, but it was interesting to say the least that I interacted with police three times that day and the only thing they took was the SD card of my work,” she said.

“I’m a journalist at an Indigenous media company … it’s [a matter] of interest to our audience.

“They knew it was my camera, they knew they were my photos. Why confiscate my work material?

“It’s something that you see in the movies, you know, and it was happening in my living room.”

The raid prompted calls for WA Police Minister Paul Papalia to launch a review into the incident, with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance branding the move “concerning”.

MEAA director Cassie Derrick said journalists and their sources needed to be protected from “disturbing raids” and “harassment” and that WA Police had urgent questions to answer.

“Police have seized and retained property on what appear to be questionable grounds,” she said.

“The equipment seized contains confidential information that could jeopardise sources and prevents these journalists from being able to do their job of informing the public.

“The bottom line is that this kind of police action utterly undermines journalism and the public’s right to know.”

A WA Police spokesperson confirmed the search was part of an ongoing investigation into the Woodside AGM incident and that police conducted investigations based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or behaviours that may affect peace and public safety.

But WA Police would not be drawn on the road stops leading up to the search, or when the SD card was likely to be returned.

The MEAA indicated it had also received reports of WA Police having seized the computer and phone of a second journalist.

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