Australian Prosecutors Trying To Throw Reporters In Jail For Accurately Reporting On Cardinal George Pell's Conviction
from the oh-come-on dept
As we’ve covered over the past few months, Australian courts put an absolutely ridiculous gag order on anyone trying to report about the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, the former CFO of the Vatican (often described as the 3rd most powerful person in the Vatican). Pell was convicted of sexually molesting choir boys in Australia in the 1990s. This is obviously quite newsworthy, but the courts used what’s known as a “suppression order” in Australia to bar anyone from revealing the information. The reasoning was that there was still another trial for Pell over different accusations, and knowing he was convicted for one might somehow unfairly influence a jury. Of course, in the US we’ve long dealt with this through a process of vetting potential jurors on their familiarity, and then simply barring just that juror pool from doing any further research on the issue — and that system works mostly fine, without keeping the public in the dark about important news, and without stifling a free press.
Eventually the suppression order was lifted, after prosecutors decided to drop the second trial (which, at the very least, suggests that all this fuss to protect the sanctity of said second trial was silly all along). And, yet, prosecutors then sent out a bunch of threatening letters to journalists — most of whom did not report publicly on the case, but who did complain about the suppression order.
And now, to show just how far Australian prosecutors will go to spit on free speech and a free press, they are now seeking jail time for members of the media over this whole mess:
Australian prosecutors are seeking jail and fines for dozens of journalists and media outlets for alleged contempt of court over their coverage of Cardinal George Pell?s child sex abuse trial last year, a court summons showed on Tuesday.
The Director of Public Prosecutions in Victoria has asked the state?s Supreme Court to send journalists to jail or impose fines for breaching a suppression order on coverage of the trial, aiding and abetting overseas media?s contempt of court, and ?scandalizing the court?.
The only things “scandalizing” here are (1) George Pell’s actions for which he was convicted, and (2) the prosecutors now going after journalists for their free speech.
Apparently there will be a hearing on April 15th for 23 journalists and 13 media organizations. It appears that it includes some of the top media organizations in Australia (The Age, Australian Financial Review, News Corp, etc.) and some fairly prominent journalists, including Michael Stutchbury, the editor-in-chief of the Australian Financial Review.
One hopes that prosecutors would come to their senses earlier, but now we have to hope a judge has more sense about this. Unfortunately, given other free speech cases in Australia over the years, I have little faith that this will end up well. Australia is making quite a name for itself as a country that believes in heavy handed censorship, and is against free speech.