Key right of journalists under threat

COMMENT by Barry Tucker                    17 April, 2013

At the moment five Australian journalists are facing court appearances following demands that they reveal the sources of their information.

Protecting the identity of sources is a time-honoured tradition in journalism. Most (particularly investigative journalists) say they could not function if they could not protect their sources.

The right to protect sources is not written into the law and at least one Australian journalist has gone to jail for it. Proposed “shield laws” were lost recently when four federal government news media regulation Bills were withdrawn due to a lack of support from key Independents.

The New South Wales Liberal/National Party Coalition government recently repealed the law that gave defendants the Right to Silence.

And now, at a critical moment in Australian journalism history, a Victorian State Political Reporter has (inadvertently, I believe) published a story that by inference revealed the source of the information, leading to the resignation of a government Minister.

Read all about it.

It’s interesting that the journalist is taking all the flak for the story. The story idea would have been run by her bureau chief. The newspaper’s editor would have/should have been aware of it; the news editor of the day and the daily news conference would have discussed it; it then goes off for processing by a sub-editor; it could have/should have been double-checked by the chief sub; numerous page proofs could have/should have been read. How did all those experts miss this one?

See also Stop the Press! Long live the Press!