Canberra: Australias Attorney General (AG) on Wednesday declared that he would be reluctant to authorise the prosecution of journalists after federal police raids earlier in June. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) executed search warrants on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst after they published classified information related to national security, reports Xinhua news agency.
AFP commissioner Neil Gaughan approved prosecuting the journalists in what would be an unprecedented move but AG Christian Porter told the media on Wednesday that it would be unlikely. In order for a person to be prosecuted under the relevant criminal law, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) must seek consent from the AG.
"There is absolutely no suggestion that any journalist is the subject of the present investigations," Porter said. "I would be required legally to consider all the circumstances of any case but I can say I would be seriously disinclined to approve prosecutions except in the most exceptional circumstances.
"I would pay particular attention to whether a journalist was simply operating according to the generally accepted principles of public interest journalism." The government has been under pressure to guarantee the freedom of the press since the AFP raids. Porter said that the people who leaked the classified documents are the ones under investigation rather than the journalists, a contradiction of the position stated by Gaughan.
Mark Dreyfus, the opposition Australian Labor's Party's legal affairs spokesperson, said that Porter's declared position was "not good enough". "While the threat of prosecution hangs over the heads of these journalists, the freedom of all Australian journalists to do their jobs, and the public's right to know, are harmed."