The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed an Australian court’s decision to uphold the right to confidentiality of sources in the case of two Australian journalists and urged the Australian government to introduce extensive and uniform shield laws.
On April 18, two Fairfax Media journalists, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie, won their appeal case in Victoria’s Court of Appeal against subpoenas they had been served in December last year in regards to the Securency scandal. The respondent, John Leckenby, was ordered to pay the court costs and has not submitted an appeal so far.
According to The Australian, the court writs required the reporters to testify in court and to reveal the identities of anonymous sources used in their articles, which exposed instances of alleged bribery in the Securency International Corporation.
“Investigative journalists have a legitimate interest in uncovering the truth about a story such as this and they serve an important public interest in having that truth revealed,” Justice David Harper said in his decision speech.
“IPI welcomes the court’s decision,” said IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills. “We urge the government to adopt extensive shield legislation on the national level. In addition, any other subpoenas seeking to compel journalists to reveal their confidential sources should be dropped.”
Since the beginning of 2013, IPI has registered an increasing number of legal attacks on Australian reporters in regards to the use of anonymous sources. In addition to Baker and McKenzie, Fairfax Media reporters Adele Ferguson and Philip Dorling and The West Australian’s Steve Pennells were also served similar subpoenas in March.
The writs against Ferguson and Pennells were sought by Gina Rinehart, mining billionaire and single largest Fairfax shareholder. They were served in regards to Ferguson’s unauthorised biography “Gina Rinehart – The Untold Story of the Richest Woman in the World” and Pennells’ articles about Rinehart’s legal battle with her children over family inheritance, ABC News reported.
Dorling also faces possible court action from Helen Liu, a leading property developer, with regards to articles which alleged that former defense minister Joel Fitzgibbon had received a $150,000 AUD donation by Liu that he did not declare, The Leader reported.