The Australian Federal Police have raided the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst in a “dangerous act of intimidation”.
The raid comes a year after Smethurst reported on a top-secret government proposal, with the AFP alleging there had been an unauthorised leak of “national security information” in a story she wrote in April 2018.
The police presented Smethurst, the national political editor of News Corp’s Sunday tabloids, with a search warrant on Tuesday morning.
In April last year, Smethurst wrote a story which uncovered internal government discussions on introducing new powers for electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate.
The story revealed details from a top-secret document proposing new abilities to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore threats by “hacking into critical infrastructure”.
A News Corp Australia spokesperson said the raid demonstrated a “dangerous act of intimidation”, adding it was “outrageous” and “heavy-handed”.
The spokesperson said: “The Australian public’s right to know information about government laws that could impact their lives is of fundamental importance in our society.
“This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.
“News Corp Australia has expressed the most serious concerns about the willingness of governments to undermine the Australian public’s right to know about important decisions Governments are making that can and will impact ordinary Australian citizens.
“What’s gone on this morning sends clear and dangerous signals to journalists and newsrooms across Australia. This will chill public interest reporting.”
In a statement, the police said the warrant related to “the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has defended the operation. Morrison, who is currently in London initially told the ABC the raid was a matter for the AFP.
However, when asked if he was concerned about a journalist’s home being raided, Morrison said: “it never troubles me that our laws are being upheld”.
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