Tue, 03 Aug 2021

CANBERRA, Australia - Australian Federal Police said Wednesday they were dropping an investigation of a prominent journalist who obtained classified documents for a 2018 story on national security.

The article by Annika Smethurst, which ran in Rupert Murdoch's Australian-based News Corp newspapers, alleged the federal government was preparing to give intelligence agencies new powers that would allow it to spy on Australian citizens.

Police raided Smethurst's Canberra home last June as part of an investigation into who may have leaked the documents that provided the basis for her story. A day later, police raided the Sydney headquarters of Australian Broadcasting Corporation looking for evidence of the whistleblower who provided documents behind a 2017 report that Australian troops had committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Ian McCartney, the deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, said no charges will be brought against Smethurst or the whistleblower who leaked the documents. But McCartney said Dan Oakes and Sam Clarke, the two ABC journalists who reported the Afghanistan story, were still under investigation.

The police decision not to charge Smethurst comes just weeks after Australia's High Court invalidated the search warrant used to search her home on a technicality.

The separate raids angered Australia's media organizations, who set aside their fierce competitive rivalry to issue a joint demand for greater press freedoms and legal protections for public-interest journalism.

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