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
IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific