News National AFP says charging ABC journalist ‘not in public interest’
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AFP says charging ABC journalist ‘not in public interest’

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the AFP has ruled out charging a journalist over an investigation in ADF war crimes. Photo: Getty
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ABC journalist Dan Oakes won’t be charged over a series of reports called the Afghan Files, Australian Federal Police have confirmed.

The 2017 reports were based on leaked Defence papers and revealed Australian defence personnel may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

It prompted the AFP to raid the ABC’s Sydney headquarters last year.

Oakes was facing three potential charges linked to obtaining classified information but the AFP on Thursday said it wasn’t in the public interest for the journalist to be prosecuted.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution had told police there was a reasonable prospect Oakes could be convicted of two of the charges.

“In determining whether the matter should be prosecuted, the CDPP considered a range of public interest factors, including the role of public interest journalism in Australia’s democracy,” the AFP said in a statement.

“The CDPP determined the public interest does not require a prosecution in the particular circumstances of this case.

“As a result of this determination, the AFP has finalised its investigation into Mr Oakes.”

ABC producer Sam Clark was told in July he wouldn’t be charged over the stories.

The national broadcaster is again calling for media law reforms to protect journalists and their sources, with ABC managing director David Anderson describing the series of events as “disappointing and disturbing”.

“While we welcome this decision, we also maintain the view the matter should never have gone this far,” he said in a statement.

“Journalists in this country should not be prosecuted for doing their jobs.

“The Afghan Files is factual and important reporting which exposed allegations about Australian soldiers committing war crimes in Afghanistan. Its accuracy has never been challenged.”

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the CDPP’s belief Oakes could be convicted of two charges shows the laws must be changed.

MEAA president Marcus Strom said the current laws punish journalists and whistleblowers when governments are embarrassed by what is published.

“That undermines our democracy because these laws have a chilling effect on journalism by using jail terms to punish legitimate scrutiny of government,” he said.