Australia police undecided on charging journalists

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Australian authorities say they have not decided whether they will prosecute journalists at the center of controversial police raids.

Broadcasters and rights groups have condemned searches by police at the Australian Broadcasting Corp ABC and a News Corp reporter’s home this week.

They have criticized the seizures of documents as attacks on press freedom.

News reports may have breached national security laws, the Australian Federal Police reiterated on Thursday.

The reports at stake
Police searched the ABC’s Sydney headquarters on Wednesday over a 2017 investigative series known as The Afghan Files.

According to the broadcaster, the series “revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan”.

Tuesday’s search at the home of newspaper journalist Annika Smethurst related to her 2018 report about a government plan to spy on Australian citizens.

Police stance
In a press briefing, acting Commissioner Neil Gaughan defended the searches. He said they had related to stories where “top-secret and secret” government information had been published.

“No sector of the community should be immune to this type of activity or evidence collection more broadly,” he said.

Asked whether police intended to prosecute media representatives, he said: “We have not made a decision.”

However, the commissioner added that authorities would consider the “public interest” of the news reports before proceeding with any case.

Bbc/Nneka Ukachukwu