23 Journalists and 13 media organisations will face court today for alleged contempt over their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for child sexual abuse.
Among those facing contempt charges are Nine’s Deborah Knight, Lara Vella, Christine Ahern, Nine Entertainment Co., 2GB’s Ray Hadley & Chris Smith, The Age, the Australian Financial Review, Macquarie Media and several News Corp publications & editors.
Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd placed a non-publication order on all of the evidence and the verdict in Pell’s trial, which was held last year. The order was not lifted until a second trial was abandoned.
Victoria’s DPP has called for jail or hefty fines for the 36 respondents. Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly $100,000 for individuals, and nearly $500,000 for companies.
Nine has denied the accusations and said it was surprised by the charges. News Corp said it will defend itself vigorously.
None of the media named George Pell but some referred to a high profile case.
Some organisations which originally received notices found they do not have to attend on April 15.
Last year Foxtel also edited its opening episode of Common Sense on its catch-up service following comments surrounding charges levelled at Cardinal George Pell.
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.
The 36 Respondents:
The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd
News Life Media Pty Ltd
Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd
The Geelong Advertiser Pty Ltd
Nationwide News Pty Ltd
Advertiser Newspapers Pty Ltd
Fairfax Media Limited
The Age Company Pty Ltd
Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd
Allure Media Pty Ltd
Macquarie Media Limited
Nine Entertainment Co Pty Ltd
Source: The Guardian