Nicky Hager's victory in the High Court today allows the fourth estate - especially its burgeoning offshoots both new and old - to breathe a sigh of relief.

Hager had claimed a police raid on his home last year - as part of an investigation to unmask vigilante hacker Rawshark who was the main source of blogger Cameron Slater's correspondence underpinning Hager's sensational book Dirty Politics - was unlawful.

While declining to make a ruling on whether the police investigation into the hack was deficient and could have been better progressed searching places that weren't Hager's home, Justice Denis Clifford appears to raise his eyebrow at the use of search warrants as fishing expeditions.

"I acknowledge some reasonable belief that they [Police] would discover evidence of the Source's identity. My concern is that reasonable belief, on the material I have been provided with, might better be characterised as hope," he says.

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Hager's ultimately successful legal challenge was based on a complaint that police, in going through his daughter's underwear drawer, seizing more than a dozen storage devices, and turning his personal and professional life upside down, had ignored Hager's important legal rights as a journalist to protect his sources.

These rights are important to encourage a check on the powers-that-be, enabling information that some may consider secret or confidential to be aired if publishing or broadcasting is in the public interest.

Having been in contact with Rawshark while working for the Sunday Star-Times, and having reviewed much of the source material Hager used in writing Dirty Politics, I'm satisfied conclusions he reached were both accurate and newsworthy and definitely passed the public interest test.

At the nub of Hager's challenge was how far these rights of journalistic privilege extended. Their applicability to mainstream media sources, like this newspaper, has long been broadly accepted.

Police relations with traditional media, while occasionally frosty (see the recent standoff with MediaWorks over Story's controversial gun-buy) are usually cordial where search warrants are well-signalled and privilege accepted.

In the case of Hager his legal team had claimed - and Justice Clifford accepted - the Police had intentionally overlooked his journalistic credentials in order to get a judge to sign off on the search warrant.

In the warrant he was described as a "political author," and any possibility that he may have privileges to assert - over the identity of Rawshark or any other important stories he was working on - was ignored.

In effect Police had begun from the assumption that because Hager published his articles in book form and not a newspaper, and by himself as an independent and not for a major news organisation, he did not measure up.

The dismissal of this argument, in effect granting new media online and old media in book publishing the same ability as mainstream media organisations to proudly carry the rights and responsibilities that the tag 'journalist'.

Ironically enough, in separate proceedings, the target of Rawshark's hacking - Cameron Slater - is also engaged in arguments also trying to extend journalistic privileges: to bloggers such as himself.

Today's ruling helpfully confirms that, where the public interest test is met, authors - and bloggers - should all be entitled to wear that badge.