I smile and pre­tend

AN­NIKA SMETHURST’S WORLD WAS TURNED UP­SIDE DOWN WHEN PO­LICE RAIDED HER HOME. HER STORY IS ONE OF THE DRIV­ERS OF OUR RIGHT TO KNOW CAM­PAIGN. SHE IS NOT JUST THE HU­MAN FACE BUT ALSO THE HU­MAN COST OF THE GOV­ERN­MENT’S LUST FOR SE­CRECY

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

Ini­tially it was the sound of a door­bell that caused a rush of anx­i­ety. It’s taken many months but I am now com­fort­able open­ing the door to the de­liv­ery man and that’s a mile­stone I never thought I would need to cel­e­brate. Other things have been harder to over­come.

In June my house was raided by seven po­lice of­fi­cers.

Per­haps it was a sur­vival mech­a­nism, but on that day my brain wouldn’t let me think about the im­pact this might have on my life. Even as the po­lice started search­ing through my bath­room cup­boards I failed to un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of what would hap­pen after they left.

Be­fore June, un­paid park­ing tick­ets — I am ter­ri­ble at life ad­min — were prob­a­bly go­ing to be the only rea­son I might end up in front of a judge.

Next month the High Court is sched­uled to hear a case ti­tled Smethurst v Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice.

For four months I have wo­ken up each morn­ing know­ing there is a pos­si­bil­ity I could be ar­rested and even go to jail.

I don’t know when it might hap­pen but the threat is al­ways there. It’s dif­fi­cult to ex­plain the toll that can take on a per­son but I did find my­self googling the av­er­age age women get grey hair re­cently if that is any in­di­ca­tion.

Jail is a daunt­ing propo­si­tion but now just feels like back­ground noise — al­beit loud back­ground noise — in my now chaotic life.

An­noy­ingly in those bliss­ful mo­ments when I do man­age to for­get about what could hap­pen, I am jolted back to re­al­ity by a ra­dio broad­cast, news­pa­per ar­ti­cle or one of the many mem­bers of the pub­lic who now ap­proach me, mostly with mes­sages of sup­port.

In or­der to sur­vive I have limited my me­dia con­sump­tion, which is not only lim­it­ing pro­fes­sion­ally but it has de­nied me some­thing I have al­ways loved.

My pro­fes­sion­al­ism and abil­ity to do my job has been chal­lenged in par­lia­ment by se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on a mis­sion to dis­credit me and is now writ­ten into Hansard.

Lawyers, whom I had had very lit­tle to do with, now con­tact me each week.

They are nice peo­ple but I can­not wait to never hear from them again.

But that could be months, per­haps years away.

I de­cided to move house im­me­di­ately after the raid as I was haunted by mem­o­ries of po­lice touch­ing ev­ery item in my home. That mod­est twobed­room apart­ment was the first house I lived alone — with­out house­mates or fam­ily — and I loved ev­ery day of liv­ing there.

Ev­ery day ex­cept one. As a jour­nal­ist I have in­ter­viewed peo­ple who have been thrust into the me­dia spot­light.

Some­times it has been a choice but of­ten it has been through cir­cum­stance. I have learnt the hard way that in­famy is aw­ful.

I didn’t want this to be about me and I never wanted to be a spokesper­son for press free­dom but I know it is im­por­tant so I do it. De­fend­ing press free­dom is about de­fend­ing ev­ery­one’s free­dom.

The re­spon­si­bil­ity of speak­ing up for some­thing as im­por­tant as press free­dom is daunt­ing and I con­stantly worry that I am not up to the task. I worry for my par­ents and for my friends. Worry is my new nor­mal.

In the past four months I have also learnt a lot about Aus­tralians and how we use hu­mour as a de­fence mech­a­nism, of­ten to avoid talk­ing about se­ri­ous is­sues that make us un­com­fort­able.

Jail jokes: I have heard them all.

Fed­eral po­lice ar­riv­ing at the home.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.