MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An Australian judge on Tuesday adjourned a trial of Australian journalists and media to consider whether to dismiss charges they breached a court suppression order on reporting of ex-Vatican treasurer George Pell’s 2018 child sex abuse conviction.
Supreme Court of Victoria judge John Dixon said he expected to make the decision in a few days.
Lawyers for the media asked the court to throw out the whole case, or dismiss charges just against the journalists as they were not responsible for publishing their articles, or dismiss charges against media outside the state of Victoria – News Corp’s Courier Mail and Daily Telegraph, and Nine Entertainment’s Sydney Morning Herald and 2GB Radio.
Pell was convicted in December 2018 of sexually assaulting two choirboys, but reporting on the trial and outcome was gagged by the County Court of Victoria to ensure the cardinal received a fair trial on further charges he was due to face.
Overseas media, including the Washington Post, reported the news, naming Pell and the charges, shortly after the verdict.
After those were published, some Australian media ran stories saying they were unable to report major news regarding an unnamed high profile figure but flagged the news was accessible online.
The state of Victoria’s prosecutors allege that publications breached the gag order by encouraging readers to find the news online, potentially tainting jurors in the second trial Pell was facing. Pell never faced a second trial.
Lawyers for the media argued on Tuesday that the prosecution’s case provided no evidence that anyone who read the Australian articles went on to search for overseas articles.
“Your honour might think this journalism crossed a line, but the question is what line did it cross,” the lawyer for Nine and Mamamia, Matt Collins, told the court.
The media’s lawyers also argued that had anyone looked for those overseas articles, they would not have found the articles that the prosecution presented in its case, as those were mostly written after the Australian articles and broadcasts.
Thirteen of the 100 charges in the case were dropped last week.
Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with up to five years jail and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($73,240) for individuals and nearly A$500,000 for companies.
Pell was acquitted in April after he served more than a year in jail.
($1 = 1.3654 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Michael Perry
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But Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, said the UCP government is using its own “hyper-partisan” press secretaries and issues managers to silence critics by focusing on party identity, labelling them as biased or affiliated with the NDP or prime minister.
“That allows the more unsavoury people to then go off with racist, homophobic, misogynist comments. Those are not coming from the premier’s office … but by coming out with partisan critiques, it opens the door and targets people that the more crazy ones will then go after you.”
Bratt doesn’t agree with comments Ogbogu made about the leak in Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s office, but criticizing his arguments is different than attacking him personally, he said.
In the 1980s in federal politics, the Liberals used some backbenchers as “attack dogs,” and Pierre Poilievre is used by Conservatives in a similar way. Now the UCP is putting its issues managers and press secretaries forward to fulfil a similar role, Bratt said.
“I think it is a deliberate strategy in distancing yourself in those sorts of attacks and using people like Matt Wolf as your pitbull, as your attack dog,” he said. “It’s a way of saying it’s not the leader, it’s these other people. This has always been a strategy, but instead of using … MLAs or backbenchers, you’re using political appointees.”
Bratt has been doing public commentary for decades, and he’s no stranger to people disagreeing with him. But he’s seeing more antagonism, in general, because of a divide in public opinion on pandemic and from COVID-19 deniers. He also sees more women and people of colour facing more pushback online.
Australia demands apology from China after fake image posted on social media – TheChronicleHerald.ca
By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday Canberra is seeking an apology from Beijing about a Tweet containing a false image of an Australian soldier holding the knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
Morrison said Australia was seeking the removal of the “truly repugnant” image posted on Monday by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis… The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” Morrison told media at a press briefing.
He said countries around the world were watching how Beijing responded to tensions in Australia’s relationship with China.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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