Australia: Police refer ABC journalist Dan Oakes to Commonwealth prosecutor

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) referred a brief of evidence relating to Dan Oakes and his investigation into the alleged war crimes committed by Australia to the commonwealth director of public prosecutions. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) calls on the Australian government to uphold their commitment to press freedom and end the investigation into the ABC journalists.

The logo for Australia's public broadcaster ABC in Sydney. Credit: SAEED KHAN / AFP

The AFP published a statement on July 2, after having referred documents to the public prosecutor with evidence recommending charges against Dan Oakes, a journalist from Australia’s public broadcaster ABC. The evidence was obtained in the police raid on the ABC’s headquarters in June 2019, using a broad search warrant allowing police to ‘add, copy, delete or alter’ material in the ABC’s computers. Oakes’ colleague, Sam Clark, who was also a target of the ABC raid was not mentioned in the brief of evidence.

According to the MEAA, the potential prosecution of Dan Oakes rests with Australia’s attorney-general Christian Porter who expressed on June 19, 2019 he would be “seriously disinclined” to approve the criminal prosecution of journalists. On September 19, 2019 Porter issued a formal ministerial direction requiring his approval before any criminal prosecution against a journalist commenced.

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Storm Said: “The Attorney-General must drop any prosecution of Dan Oakes because the revelations in The Afghan Files have been proved to be in the public interest. And the Government must reform the bad laws it has introduced in the past seven years that fail to protect whistleblowers and that criminalise journalism.”

The IFJ said: “The AFP raid on the ABC in 2019 and the legal intimidation of Dan Oakes reflects the true intentions of authorities attempting to undermine public interest journalism and suppress the truth. The Australian government must enact reforms reflecting principles of press freedom that protects media workers from retribution. The IFJ calls on the government to drop the prosecution of Dan Oakes and ensure there is no prosecution of Sam Clarke.”

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