Port Rowan man pleads guilty to threatening Chopp
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA —
High-profile Australian journalists and large media organizations went on trial on Monday on charges that they breached a gag order on reporting about Cardinal George Pell’s sex abuse convictions in 2018 that have since been overturned.
A total of 18 individual journalists, editors and broadcasters face potential prison sentences and 12 media organizations face fines if they are found guilty in the Victoria state Supreme Court of breaching a judge’s suppression order on Pell’s case. They have all pleaded not guilty.
Justice John Dixon is hearing the trial without a jury and via video links due to pandemic restrictions. The trial is expected to take two to three weeks.
Such suppression orders are common in the Australian and British judicial systems. But the enormous international interest in an Australian criminal trial with global ramifications highlighted the difficulty in enforcing such orders in the digital age.
Pell was convicted on Dec. 11, 2018, of sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral when he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.
The trial of Pope Francis’ former finance minister and the most senior Catholic to be charged with child sex abuse was not reported in the news media because of a suppression order that forbade publication of details in any format that could be accessed from Australia.
Details were suppressed to prevent prejudicing jurors in a second child abuse trial that Pell was to face three months later.
That second trial was cancelled due to a lack of evidence, and Australia’s High Court in April overturned all convictions after Pell had spent 13 months in prison.
In opening her case, prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari told the judge that the morning after Pell’s convictions, Australians could read about it on overseas websites, with U.S.-based The Daily Beast among the first to break the news.
No foreign news organization has been charged with breaching the suppression order. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment would prevent such censorship in the United States, so attempting to extradite an American for breaching an Australian suppression order would be futile.
Melbourne’s most popular newspaper, Herald Sun, published a white headline “CENSORED” across a black front page.
“The world is reading a very important story that is relevant to Victorians,” the newspaper said, referring to residents of Victoria state.
The newspaper said it was prevented from “publishing details of this significant news.”
“But trust us, it’s a story you deserve to read,” the newspaper said.
An online story that referenced overseas reporting led to the newspaper’s owner and staff being charged.
“A high-profile Australian known across the world has been convicted of a serious crime but the details cannot be published in any media in the country,” the online report began, under the headline, “The story we can’t report.”
Sydney radio broadcaster Chris Smith, whom De Ferrari described as a “commentator rather than a journalist,” referred to similar cryptic reports in Sydney newspapers during his morning program.
He’s been charged for telling his audience that two of the top three results of Google searches for the “suppressed name” were websites that reported the crimes.
“I can’t tell you who it is,” Smith said. “But I can also encourage you to get on to Google and start asking these questions: high-profile Australian, worldwide reputation, conviction of an awful crime — and you’ll find out who it is.”
Alex Lavelle, a former editor of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, has been charged over an article that explained that a suppression order prevented his newspaper from reporting that “a high-profile figure” had been “convicted of a serious crime.”
Prosecutors have tendered into evidence an email from senior The Age journalist Selma Milovanovic sent a day after Pell’s conviction in which she urged Lavelle not to breach the suppression order.
She reminded him that the newspaper had “sat on convictions for years” of Melbourne serial killer Peter Dupas because of suppression orders.
Lavelle replied that he was “very sympathetic” to Milovanovic’s view and that “there are valid arguments on both sides.”
“I think one of the things that is different now is that the stories are everywhere and easily accessible, which was not the case with Dupas presumably,” Lavelle wrote. “We are not breaching the suppression order, just explaining why we can’t report on the story.”
The media defendants have not said what their defence is to be in the court case. De Ferrari said some of the individuals charged had said they were not aware that a suppression order existed.
Some won’t admit to writing contentious articles, relying on a privilege against self-incrimination. Prosecutors will have to prove their roles in publication.
The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.
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Her words on Friday, born of exasperation, described it as having a “gun to my head” and being handed “a ransom demand” for her kidnapped child.
The evidence from Westphal and his team is the only expected expert testimony directly supporting Minassian’s mental state defence.
“All of Mr. Minassian’s eggs are in this particular basket,” Molloy said in her ruling.
After all, Minassian has admitted he purposely rented a van on April 23, 2018, and drove it down a busy sidewalk with the planned purpose of killing as many people as he could.
Because Westphal is in the United States and the trial is being held online due to COVID-19, Molloy cannot do what she has done before, which is send police to corral a witness and bring them to court, where refusal to testify could lead to imprisonment.
“The devastation wrought by Mr. Minassian cannot be overstated. However, he is entitled to a fair trial in our courts, and to call a defence supported by evidence. That evidence exists, but is in the control of Dr. Westphal,” she concluded.
Molloy’s words on not naming killers rekindles the debate over what to do in the wake of violence that was raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the Nova Scotia rampage.
In Trudeau’s first public address after the Nova Scotia mass shooting during which 22 people were killed in April, he asked that the killer’s identity not be included in media coverage of the tragedy.
“I want to ask the media to avoid mentioning the name and showing the picture of the person involved,” he said as part of his prepared remarks. “Do not give him the gift of infamy. Let us instead focus all our intention and attention on the lives we lost and the families and friends who grieve.”
Social media 'out of control,' says Norfolk mayor – Simcoe Reformer
Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp says harassment and even threats of violence have been part of her job since being elected in 2018.
“I’m pretty tough, but the constant barrage of abuse that some find amusing has affected my psychology,” the mayor said in an interview last week.
Earlier this month, a 57-year-old Port Rowan man was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm to Chopp.
Dana Robert Dargie was placed on house arrest for 30 days and put on probation for 18 months, during which he is banned from communicating with or going near the mayor. He also can’t go to the municipal building or attend any Norfolk council meetings. And he was directed to get counselling for anger management.
“It’s my understanding that he was warned once to stop and he didn’t,” Chopp said of Dargie.
But Dargie is just one of many people who lash out on social media against the mayor, who has faced controversy over council’s decisions to cut services and staff, among other things.
At a Norfolk council meeting last Tuesday, the mayor was accused by her council colleagues of using bullying tactics and intimidation as the politicians aired their feelings and grievances. Chopp refused to participate in the meeting, gathering her things and leaving.
Along with emails and negative online comments, Chopp is mocked through a parody account on Twitter, which often compares her to U.S. President Donald Trump. She said a members-only Facebook site with 3,000 members seems to have been formed specifically to discuss and denigrate her work and that of Norfolk CAO Jason Burgess, who is the municipality’s fifth CAO in just over a year.
She said she regularly receives inappropriate emails, including some from a “dirty old man,” who has sent dozens of messages, including half-naked photos of himself.
“I never used to believe in blocking people but that has changed in recent times. Social media has become too out of control, too offensive, too damaging and too harassing.”
And that harassment has extended to her family.
Chopp said her parents’ Hamilton-area farm was visited last year by bylaw officers looking for illegal cannabis.
“They realized they had been sent on a wild goose chase the second they stepped onto the farm but said they had so many phone calls and emails telling them to check it out that they finally went.”
A spokesperson for the City of Hamilton confirmed bylaw officers visited the farm and found no violations.
Chopp said that incident is still under investigation and included a “22-page manifesto” from someone named “Harry Smith,” who mailed his allegations to major media organizations in Canada and to Chopp’s employer, Air Canada, where she works as a pilot. The “manifesto” said the mayor is a narcissistic dictator and psychopath, who owns her own plane and runs a marijuana business.
“I think there’s a reason why women, in particular, don’t want to get involved in politics,” she said. “I can give you a list of more than a dozen men I’m allegedly sleeping with. And, if they don’t get off on that one, they call me a lesbian.”
Chopp said she has pondered taking civil action against some of the harassers as the abuse intensifies
She said she hopes Dargie’s conviction will stop others.
“But I don’t think it will,” she said. “Social media has taken on a life of its own and the facts don’t seem to matter.
“Ignoring the keyboard warriors is difficult but I will do my best to soldier on.”
The Debate – France, security and the media: Does the new global law go too far? – FRANCE 24
Issued on: 23/11/2020 – 20:17
France is caught in a row over the right to film police officers in the course of their duty. It is a controversy that has brought demonstrators on to the streets. A new law on the Security of France goes to a final vote on Tuesday. The Bill with a controversial amendment has been passed for a first time by the National Assembly by a margin in 146 to 24. Article 24 concerns the right to film the police. It raises fears and concerns among many media here in France about the right to report and inform.
This evening with our panel we discuss the issues. Police officers have a tough job. But freedom to report is a foundation of democracy
Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Juliette Laurain and Imen Mellaz.
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