Australian media to face court over Pell trial coverage

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Three dozen Australian journalists and publishers are to face court on Monday over their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s trial for child sex abuse, with prosecutors seeking fines and jail terms over accusations of breached gag orders in the case.

FILE PHOTO – Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police and members of the media as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Dadswell/File Photo

Prosecutors in the southeastern state of Victoria have accused the 23 journalists and 13 news outlets of aiding and abetting contempt of court by overseas media and breaching suppression orders.

Among those facing contempt charges are Nine Entertainment Co, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, Macquarie Media, and several News Corp publications.

Although Monday’s hearing is largely procedural, media experts say the case shows not only the serious consequences of breaching rules on court reporting but also how poorly the rules rein in coverage in the era of digital news.

“It shows that the laws themselves are out of sync with the speed and breadth of publication,” said Mark Pearson, a professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University in Queensland state.

“But the courts can only do what is available to them. The courts have to send a message that people deserve a fair trial and that people can’t publish what they want to when someone is facing court, if that might damage the trial.”

Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($71,000) for individuals, and nearly A$500,000 for companies.

Macquarie Media did not respond to a request for comment but it has previously declined to comment, as the accusations are subject to legal proceedings.

Nine, which owns the Age and the Australian Financial Review, has denied the accusations and said it was surprised by the charges. News Corp has said it will defend itself vigorously.

Pell, who became the most senior Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex abuse, was jailed for six years in February.

The county court of Victoria put a suppression order on reporting of Pell’s trial last year to prevent jury prejudice in that case, as well as on a second trial on other charges set for March.

In December, the jury in the first trial found Pell guilty of abusing two choir boys.

After the verdict, some Australian media said an unnamed high-profile person had been convicted of a serious crime that could not be reported.

No Australian media named Pell or the charges at the time, though some overseas media did.

Those who published online do not have offices or staff in Australia and were not charged for ignoring the suppression order, but have lobbied against it.

“Gag orders are futile in a case of global interest in the digital age,” said Steven Butler, an official of the Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “We urge Australian authorities to drop these proceedings and to re-examine the application of such suppression orders,” added Butler.

The gag order, which had applied across Australia “and on any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia”, was lifted on Feb. 26 when the charges that would have figured in the second trial were dropped.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez

Source

more recommended stories

  • Bombs kill more than 200 in Sri Lankan churches, hotels on Easter Sunday

    COLOMBO (Reuters) – More than 200.

  • Saudi Arabia, UAE grant $3 billion of support to Sudan

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and.

  • Sri Lanka government declares curfew, shuts down access to major social media sites

    Sri Lankan military stand guard in.

  • In nod to debt concerns, China Belt and Road summit to urge sustainable financing

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – World leaders meeting.

  • Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacre

    LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – A week-long.

  • Death toll from Congo boat accident rises to 40 – interior minister

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Twenty-seven more people.

  • Yellow vest demonstrators, police clash in Paris

    PARIS (Reuters) – Clashes broke out.

  • Clashes break out between police and some yellow vest rioters in Paris

    PARIS (Reuters) – Clashes broke out.

  • Kosovo brings back fighters, families of jihadists from Syria

    PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo brought back.

  • China to show new warships as Beijing flexes military muscle on navy anniversary

    QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – China will.

  • Pompeo says nothing’s changed on North Korea talks – ‘It’ll be my team’

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State.

  • Mueller report strengthens resolves on both sides of political spectrum

    CLEARWATER, Florida/LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – After.

  • Democrats make legal bid for all Russia probe evidence, Trump calls Mueller report ‘crazy’

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats on.

  • Explainer – Egypt votes on changing its constitution

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt holds a.

  • ‘Tank man’ video for Leica sparks outcry in China ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

    BEIJING (Reuters) – Germany’s Leica Camera.

  • China says Silk Road not geopolitical tool, understands concerns

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Belt and.

  • Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday – White House

    FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince.

  • In unflattering detail, Mueller report reveals Trump actions to impede inquiry

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert.

  • Mueller report provides intimate scenes from the Trump White House

    (Advisory: Story includes language throughout that.

  • Barr begins rollout of Russia report in landmark moment for Trump

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General.

  • Time-lapse shots of Notre-Dame spire may offer clues on blaze

    A view shows Notre-Dame Cathedral after.

  • Iran says its armed forces are not a regional threat, calls for unity against U.S.

    LONDON (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani.

  • White House, Justice Department officials discussed Mueller report ahead of release – NYT

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House lawyers.

  • Release of Mueller’s Trump-Russia report looms as fight brews over redactions

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats could.

  • Saudi Arabia to host G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2020: SPA news agency

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will.

  • Peru ex-president Garcia shoots himself as police try to arrest him

    FILE PHOTO: Former Peruvian president Alan.

  • Indonesia presidential election unofficial results

    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko.

  • Spain’s Socialists hold lead ahead of election, still short of majority – poll

    MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Socialists broadened.

  • Trump vetoes congressional resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen war

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • 150 missing after shipwreck in eastern Congo

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – About 150 people.

  • Mutual friends and borrowed cars – how Ukraine’s would-be leader is linked to tycoon

    KIEV (Reuters) – Volodymyr Zelenskiy, front.

  • No sign of arson in Notre-Dame blaze as nation grieves for symbol

    PARIS (Reuters) – The fire that.