Police questioning of journalists is not new, but raids on the two influential news organizations sparked warnings that national security was being used to justify curbs on whistleblowing and reporting that might embarrass the government.
The Sunday Telegraph, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's sprawling News Corp. empire, said that the raid on Smethurst's home "demonstrates a risky act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths". And if people are scared to share or report that information, then who knows what abuses of power we'll never hear about.
Prime Minister Scott Morrisonhas said he's open to reviewing the legislation underpinning the AFP searches.
"If there are issues regarding particular laws, they will be raised in the normal way that they should be in a democracy, and they are matters I am always open to discuss", Morrison said.
The raid sought information about a 2017 story titled The Afghan Files, revealed incidents of Australian troops killing unarmed men and children, with the cases being investigated as potential unlawful killings.
"What we're seeing here is no-one in the government being prepared to defend the role that media has in our democracy, which is essential", he said.
Gaughan said the Australian police strongly support press freedom, but he highlighted the investigation as pertaining to national security information.
"Observance of this basic tenet of the community's right to know has driven my involvement in public life and my career in journalism for nearly five decades".
Officers presented Smethurst - the national political editor of News Corp's Sunday tabloids - with a search warrant on Tuesday morning over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
Officers spent eight hours inside the ABC'sSydney headquarters on Wednesday over a series of investigative stories exposing special forces misconduct in Afghanistan.
"Due to the limited prospects of identifying a suspect, it was not accepted for investigation", an AFP spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday night.
News reports may have breached national security laws, the Australian Federal Police reiterated on Thursday.
Asked whether police meant to prosecute media representatives, he said: "We have not made a decision". They said that the two raids were indicated a 'disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom.' Similar condemnation had come from other unions and human rights groups.