Federal police have confirmed ABC journalist Dan Oakes will not be prosecuted over his reporting on alleged war crimes carried out by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) said there was a reasonable chance of securing a conviction against Oakes over the leaked classified documents that he used to form the basis of his reporting.
But the CDPP said there was no public interest in pursuing a prosecution.
In a statement, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it had referred a brief to the CDPP, outlining three potential criminal 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 statement said.
“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.”
“It’s been three years, so it is a considerable relief,” Oakes told the ABC.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that it’s taken this long to resolve this matter, but look, it’s obviously not ideal and it has been a very difficult three years.”
David Anderson, ABC Managing Director said, “The Australian Federal Police has notified me that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will not proceed with any action against our journalist Dan Oakes and that the matter is now finalised.
“This follows the same decision in regards to ABC journalist Sam Clark in July.
“While we welcome this decision, we also maintain the view the matter should never have gone this far.
“That the CDPP has reached the decision that prosecuting our journalists is not in the public interest only compounds what we have argued all along: Journalists in this country should not be prosecuted for doing their jobs and legislation needs to be changed to provide proper protection for journalists and their sources when they are acting in the public interest.
“This whole episode has been both disappointing and disturbing.
“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 and it remains online for audiences to read.”
Gaven Morris, ABC Director, News said, “It’s more than three years since the ABC published The Afghan Files and over a year since the AFP raided our Ultimo building hunting information on the confidential sources for that reporting.
“The pressure on our journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark over that time has at times been extreme, and they have handled it with admirable fortitude.
“While we’re enormously relieved the ordeal is now over for them, the ABC’s fight for public interest journalism to be protected is far from over.
“We will always back our journalists to report independently and without fear or favour stories Australians have a right to know.”
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance federal president Marcus Strom said: “This is clearly good news for Dan who has had this threat hanging over him since he and colleague Sam Clark revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. That story, reported in July 2017, is true. But because they told the truth the ABC was subjected to a nine-hour raid by the Australian Federal Police in June 2019 – almost two years after the allegations were aired.
“It’s disturbing that Australia can operate like a police state by criminalising journalism, raiding journalists in their homes and workplaces, and threatening them with jail for their legitimate journalism that is clearly in the national interest.”