Raids on the homes and workplaces of journalists will have a chilling effect on public servants considering speaking up on issues at work and highlight the need for an overhaul in whistleblower laws, experts say.
At the same time, the federal police are standing by their actions, with AFP acting commissioner Neil Gaughan saying the raids were not designed to intimidate journalists and were "independent and impartial" of the government.
A raid by federal police officers on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst's Canberra home on Tuesday was followed by a raid on the ABC Sydney headquarters on Wednesday, in separate investigations into sources for stories by the two news organisations.
He said it was not unusual for search warrants to be executed in such investigations.
"No sector of the community should be immune to this type of activity or evidence collection more broadly," he said.
"This includes law enforcement itself, the media, or indeed, even politicians. There are criminal allegations being investigated and we cannot ignore them.
Acting Commissioner Gaughan didn't rule out further charges being laid.
"What we're investigating is the fact that code-worded and top secret and secret information was disclosed to the Australian community," he said.
Professor AJ Brown said the raids and pursuit of the sources of the stories would have a chilling effect on public servants trying to draw attention to wrongdoing, and could even stop them using official internal channels.
"It's going to have a chilling effect on people's preparedness to even blow the whistle internally about wrongdoing because these are situations where people did or at least two of the three situations [in the media] where people did blow the whistle internally and try and use proper channels and by their account, which is so far yet to be tested in court, the response wasn't adequate."
We know from research the main reason people went public is not because they're in a rush to tell journalists. The main reason why people go public is because they tried to blow the whistle internally and either suffered repercussions or it hasn't been dealt with or both.AJ Brown
Professor Brown, at Griffith University's Centre for Governance and Public Policy, said protections for whistleblowers in the public sector had fallen behind protections for those in private companies.
"Some of the recent whistleblower protections that have been inserted in the Corporations Act for private sector employees are actually superior, they still need work, but they do more to recognise that organisations need to be on the front foot in making sure that their whistleblower channels and approaches are properly sophisticated and capable of actually protecting people."
"But the public sector law is now out of date compared to that and there clearly needs to be a rejig in order for whistleblower protection to be properly internalised in a way that is proactive."
Former Defence lawyer David McBride allegedly leaked documents relating to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan to the ABC. He says he tried internal avenues and even the police before going to the media.
In a similar case, tax office whistleblower Richard Boyle, who faces 161 years in jail if found guilty of charges related to his revelations, says his disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act was investigated and dismissed before he went to the ABC.
In the ACT, a former ASIS spy known as Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are facing jail time for contacting journalists about illegal bugging of the East Timor government, despite first trying to raise the issue within the government.
It's not known if any internal disclosures were made before the publication of Ms Smethurst's story last year, which revealed departmental secretaries were considering increasing powers given to the Australian Signals Directorate.
Professor Brown said public sector leaders should expect more people would go to the media if internal avenues for disclosure weren't beefed up.
"We know from research the main reason people went public is not because they're in a rush to tell journalists. The main reason why people go public is because they tried to blow the whistle internally and either suffered repercussions or it hasn't been dealt with, or both," he said.
"These cases should be a big wake up call to public sector leaders and the government in general that if you want people to blow the whistle internally and use the so-called proper channels then you have to make those channels really robust and be proactive in making sure people don't suffer from using them."
President of the Law Council of Australia Arthur Moses SC said a Whistleblower Protection Authority should be set up to cover both the public and private sectors.
"Effective whistleblower protection is critical in promoting integrity, accountability and trust in our public and private institutions. Such protections should extend to those who shed light on matters of public interest."
Mr Moses said protections needed to include remedies for reprisal and the ability for compensation against adverse action.
"Unless proper protections are in place, the developments this week could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers disclosing information to media, due to fear of prosecution," he said.
"Accordingly, parliament needs to review these laws to ensure we get the balance right."
Mr Moses said the Public Interest Disclosure Act existed and public servants still had a duty to act responsibly.
"In saying this, nobody is suggesting that public officials should have a cavalier approach to their duty to keep matters secret that if disclosed may endanger national security."