Sydney, Australia, May 27 (efe-epa).- Australian Federal Police on Wednesday announced it was dropping its probe into News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, one of two investigations that began last year over the publishing of classified government files and that generated a strong debate on press freedom in the country.
The authorities searched Smethurst’s home in June last year over an article published in the Sunday Telegraph in April 2018 that alleged the Australian government planned to empower intelligence agencies to spy on its citizens. The story was based on classified government documents leaked to the journalist.
In April, Australia’s top court ruled that the police raid was invalid because it failed to sufficiently specify the offense to which it related, however it did not order the return or destruction of the items seized.
“The AFP has reviewed all available material and determined there is insufficient evidence to progress the investigation in relation to the unauthorised disclosure of the classified document,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Investigations Ian McCartney said in a statement. “As a result, a decision has been made to finalize the investigation.”
“I acknowledge the significant media and community interest in this matter as it relates to press freedom, in what has been a complex investigation… This was a serious breach of national security information that needed to be investigated,” McCartney added.
The police said that another investigation against public broadcaster ABC over leaks of official documents continues.
A day after the raid on Smethurst’s home, the AFP raided the ABC offices in Sydney over a separate leak of documents linked to alleged crimes committed by the elite Australian forces deployed in Afghanistan – which included killing of children – as described in the so-called “Afghan Files” that were revealed by ABC in 2017.
The raids received widespread criticism, including that of ABC President Ita Buttrose, who said they were “designed to intimidate” media while also prompting a parliamentary committee to analyze press freedom in the country.
Since 2014, Australia has had a series of laws that criminalize the disclosure of information related to state interests, define new espionage offenses and allow access to citizens’ digital metadata, among other practices. EFE-EPA