SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Australian authorities on Thursday (Oct 15) dropped an investigation into a journalist accused of receiving classified information to produce a report on alleged troop misconduct in Afghanistan, the second media probe dismissed amid concerns over press freedom.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it believed it had “reasonable prospects of conviction” but the prosecutor’s office wanted the investigation into Australia Broadcasting Corp (ABC) journalist Daniel Oakes dropped, as there was no public interest in continuing.
“The public interest does not require a prosecution in the particular circumstances of this case,” the AFP said in a statement.
The decision closes an anxious chapter for Australian media outlets which last year decried raids on the ABC head office and the home of a News Corp newspaper editor over successive days in relation to stories they had run.
The ABC had said the investigation into its reporter was in relation to 2017 stories about alleged troop misconduct in Afghanistan, and involved the police examining some 9,000 computer files at the state-funded broadcaster.
“While we welcome this decision, we also maintain the view the matter should never have gone this far,” ABC managing director David Anderson said in a statement on Thursday.
“This whole episode has been both disappointing and disturbing.”
The AFP dropped its case against the News Corp editor in May due to insufficient evidence after a court ruled the warrant used to raid the journalist’s home was invalid.
“No journalist should have to endure what @DanielMOakes went through for more than two years,” said Mr Marcus Strom, president of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance in a tweet.
“Laws that criminalise national security reporting remain on the books. We need urgent reform.”
Mr Oakes, the ABC reporter, retweeted a post from the broadcaster’s director of news, Mr Gaven Morris, which described the decision as “justice at long last”.
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