News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Picture Gary Ramage
News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Picture Gary Ramage

News Corp journo won’t face AFP charges

Australian Federal Police will not lay charges against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst for reporting on secret government plans to expand the powers of a spy agency.

Ms Smethurst has been under investigation since publishing a story in 2018 detailing a proposal to allow the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on citizens without a warrant.

Her Canberra apartment was raided in June 2019, sparking a major debate about press freedom in Australia.

Officers seized information from the reporter's phone after rummaging through her drawers and cupboards for several hours.

Australian Federal Police will not lay any charges against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Picture: Gary Ramage
Australian Federal Police will not lay any charges against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Picture: Gary Ramage

Ms Smethurst challenged the raid in the High Court, arguing the search warrant was poorly drafted and too vague.

The full bench found in her favour last month, declaring the warrant invalid. However, the judges were torn over whether the AFP ought to destroy material seized during the search.

Two justices found the police should destroy the data, but the majority disagreed.

The AFP sought legal advice on what to do with the evidence after the decision was handed down.

News Corp Australasia executive Chairman Michael Miller said following the ruling that the High Court had send an "indisputable message" to the AFP.

"All Australians should be extremely concerned that a journalist's home can be raided illegally," Mr Miller said.

"It's now vital that the Federal Government must allow media organisations to contest warrants against journalists to avoid debacles like this one occurring again.

"Annika Smethurst should not be prosecuted for simply doing her job as a journalist to rightly inform Australians on serious matters of public interest.

"It's time for the Federal Government to bring this sorry mess to a prompt end. It's time to end Annika's ordeal."

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney has confirmed no charges will be laid and will address the media in Canberra on this afternoon.

In October last year, incoming AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw flagged an external review of his agency's policies and guidelines around "sensitive investigations".

He said police independence and freedom of the press were fundamental pillars of Australian democracy.

Originally published as News Corp journo won't face AFP charges