Annika Smethurst takes sabbatical from industry due to ‘heavy toll’ of AFP raid

News Corp political editor Annika Smethurst – whose home was raided by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) last year – has announced she is stepping down from her role and taking a sabbatical from journalism due to the “heavy toll” the past 12 months has taken.

Smethurst faced the threat of charges for almost a year over a 2018 story on Government plans to grant the Australian Signals Directorate powers to spy on Australian citizens, before the AFP finally confirmed in May that it would not pursue charges against her.

Smethurst will have some time off from next month

Canberra-based Smethurst will step back from her position at The Sunday Telegraph in mid-September to spend more time in her home state of Victoria and to pursue writing projects.

In an editorial, the paper said it is “sorry to see Annika go. She’s an outstanding reporter and a much-loved member of our team. We can’t wait to see what she does next.”

It continued: “The concerns about press freedom, however, did not ease when the High Court threw out the spurious investigation into Annika.

“ABC journalist Dan Oakes still faces the threat of criminal charges over his reporting on alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. Governments of all levels in Australia have for many years been steadily eroding journalists’ right to investigate and report on sensitive material, particularly on areas of defence and national security.”


Last month, the AFP sent a brief of evidence to federal prosecutors over the ABC’s reporting, asking the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution to consider laying charges against Oakes over the 2017 reports known as ‘The Afghan Files’. Oakes’ co-author, Samuel Clark, is not part of the brief.

However, Attorney-General Christian Porter would have to approve prosecution of Oakes. After the AFP raided the ABC’s Ultimo offices, just a day after the raid on Smethurst’s home, Porter instructed prosecutors not to charge the three journalists without his formal approval.

“The ABC’s journalism clearly embarrassed the Government and the Department of Defence because they had classified the war crimes allegations as ‘secret’ so it could be hidden from the public,” the Media Entertainment and Art’s Alliance’s federal media president, Marcus Strom, said when the AFP confirmed it would continue to pursue Oakes.

“In fact, the story needed to be told because it was clearly in the public interest. We now know, from subsequent news stories, that there are multiple allegations of war crimes under investigation. And yet it is the truth tellers who face jail time.

“We should never forget that the AFP used a dangerously wide-reaching search warrant when it raided the ABC. It allowed the AFP to ‘add, copy, delete or alter’ material in the ABC’s computers. Such powers in the pursuit of whistleblowers and the criminalisation of legitimate public interest journalism should have no place in our democracy.”


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