Uniform shield law needed to protect confidential sources

Media Release: Australia                                             

03 April, 2013


International Federation of Journalists (IFJ joins its Australian affiliate the

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance in calling for a uniform national

approach to shield laws for journalists. The call comes amid an unprecedented

assault on press freedom with five Media Alliance members facing court action

to reveal their confidential sources.


Media Alliance is asking the Standing Council on Law and Justice representing

Attorneys General in the federal, state and territory jurisdictions to come

together and create uniform shield laws to ensure the public have access to

information they are entitled to in a democracy.


many states have introduced shield laws, they vary widely on many different

matters and the extent of their coverage.


five are: Steve Pennells of the West Australian and Fairfax Media journalists

Adele Ferguson, Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie and Philip Dorling. The court

actions have been brought against Pennells and Ferguson by Gina Rinehart. Helen

Liu has brought actions against Baker, McKenzie and Dorling. Baker and McKenzie

also face separate proceedings brought by defendants in the Securency case.


five face criminal convictions, fines and/or jail terms for maintaining their

ethical responsibility to protect the confidentiality of sources.


now, I am faced with every journalist’s most-feared nightmare: comply with a

court order to hand over documents that I promised would be kept confidential,

or face a jail sentence for contempt of court,” Ferguson said.


is a situation forced on me by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, who

is also the major shareholder in the company I work for, Fairfax Media.”


sixth journalist, Paddy Manning from Fairfax Media, recently faced a subpoena

from mining magnate Nathan Tinkler seeking confidential documents.


the subpoena has now been lifted, court imposed restrictions remain in place.

Manning said: “I think it would be a great surprise to many working journalists

and to the public at large that we cannot report confidential information in

the public interest. Isn’t that our job?”


Murphy, director – media with the Media Alliance said: “The wealthy and

powerful in Australia are increasingly using courts to prevent the public

having access to information they have a right to know. No journalist should

face criminal conviction for doing their job ethically and in the public interest.

Such journalism is a cornerstone of our democracy.”


journalists, Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus, who were found in contempt of

court in 2007 for not revealing their sources, have sent a message of support

to their colleagues. You can read it here.

The IFJ joins in the Media Alliance in supporting the petition for Adele

Ferguson, who has been subpoenaed by Gina Rinehart seeking information about

Ferguson’s confidential sources. Add your name here.




further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 



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