Condemnation have been pouring in after the Australian police raided the newsroom of the country's public broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Sydney headquarters with search warrants naming two journalists and the news director.
ANAustralian police raid on public broadcaster ABC this week risks having a chilling effect on freedom of the press, its editorial director says.
"We stand by Annika and we will not resile from our campaign to protect the public's right to know about important decisions governments are making that can and will impact ordinary Australian citizens", Michael Miller, News Corp Australasia executive chairman, said in a statement.
Smethurst is national politics editor at the Sunday Telegraph and other newspapers owned by News Corp, billionaire Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate.
ABC reported that the raids were related to The Afghan Files, a series of 2017 government leaks published by the ABC. "Following the execution of each search warrant on June 4 and June 5 respectively, my office was informed that search warrants had been executed", he said.
According to the ABC, federal police raided their Ultimo offices around 11:30 am local time.
Australia's democratic credentials have been called into question following police raids on major media organisations this week, sparking urgent calls for greater protection of journalists and their sources.
"Public interest is best served by the ABC doing its job, asking hard questions and dealing with genuine whistle-blowers who risk their livelihoods and reputations to bring matters of grave import to the surface".
Gaven Morris defended the two journalists who were named alongside him in the search warrant.
Annika Smethurst's employer News Corp Australia had condemned the raids as 'outrageous and heavy-handed'.
Police searched the home of a prominent Canberra journalist on Tuesday, hunting for information linked to a story she wrote previous year on secret government plans to spy on Australian citizens.
An hour after his report went to air yesterday, his producer was contacted by an official from the Department of Home Affairs to advise the material was "highly confidential".
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said from London that "it never troubles me that our laws are being upheld". A spokesperson would not confirm or deny the existence of the investigation.
Innes Willox - a former political adviser, diplomat and now chief executive of the Australian Industry Group - said he was anxious about the perceived politicisation of supposedly independent government departments and agencies.
Shadow home affairs minister, the Labor party's Kristina Keneally, demanded an explanation for why the raids occurred.
News Corp, controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch, called the raid "outrageous and heavy-handed" and "a unsafe act of intimidation".
"Police will allege the unauthorised disclosure of these specific documents undermines Australia's national security", it said in a statement, adding that no one had been arrested during the operation.