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The High Court today unanimously ruled the warrant federal police used to raid the home of News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst was invalid and should be quashed.

The National Press Club welcomes this finding.

The raid on Ms Smethurst’s home happened June last year. At the time, the National Press Club argued it – and the raid on the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney the very next day, could have a chilling effect on the right of journalists to carry out their jobs, and to report without fear or favour.

Ms Smethurst is a respected senior journalist in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, and was elected as a Board director of the National Press Club of Australia last November.

The Court has ruled on a technicality - finding the warrant AFP officers used misstated the ground in the Crimes Act that it was relying on, and failed to state the offence that the warrant related to with sufficient precision.

Given that finding, the bench ruled it didn’t further need to rule on whether the raid impinged on press freedom.

There remains some uncertainty, however, given the court has not specified what should happen to seized data.

If the AFP decides to continue a prosecution against Ms Smethurst, it would need to seek the approval of the federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter.

We would strongly urge the Attorney-General to safeguard the principle of media freedom which is so fundamental to our democratic society and liberties.

The National Press Club continues to advocate for suggested reforms proposed by Australia’s Right to Know Coalition. These reforms are crucial to protect public-interest journalism and whistleblowers, and ensure the Australian public is well informed on what is happening in their name.

This judgement today should spur Parliamentarians of all political affiliations to come together to agree on these proposed reforms and to legislate them swiftly once the Parliament resumes its operations.

For and on behalf of the Board

Maurice Reilly
CEO, National Press Club of Australia

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