Peter Dutton has rejected calls to drop legal action against journalists targeted in recent police raids, saying “nobody is above the law”.
Two ABC reporters and a News Corp journalist are under police investigation after publishing separate stories based on leaked government information.
The heads of both media organisations have written to the Home Affairs Minister, asking that action against their journalists cease.
But on Friday Mr Dutton pushed back against their requests.
He inferred ABC reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, had committed a crime.
However, Mr Dutton insisted he would not interfere in the police investigation.
“If you’ve got top secret documents and they’ve been leaked, it is an offence under the law,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.
“Nobody is above the law and the police have a job to do under the law.
“I think it is up to the police to investigate, to do it independently, and make a decision whether or not they prosecute.”
But Mr Dutton’s statement was rejected by News Corp.
In a statement, group executive for corporate affairs, policy and government relations Campbell Reid said it was “time the government stopped paying lip service to standing up for press freedom”.
“It is not that journalists are above the law but some of these laws are being applied in ways that are not appropriate if you have a commitment to an open society,” he told news.com.au.
“The government cannot keep talking the talk and not walking the walk.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese also backed the media organisations, saying it would be a “common sense outcome” for the investigations to be abandoned.
“Quite clearly the government needs to show leadership on this issue,” Mr Albanese told the Nine Network.
“They have to point out what here was exposed that was inappropriate, that wasn’t in the public interest.”
The police raids have attracted international attention, with high profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney publicly challenging Australia to “be better than North Korea” on press freedom.
“What happens in a country like Australia or the UK or the US will be looked at by every other leader in the world and potentially be used as an excuse to clamp down even further on journalists,’’ Mrs Clooney told a conference on media freedom in London this week.