When it comes to reporting the courts, Australian journalists already deal with many restrictions as to what they are legally permitted to publish and on the amount of information they are given access to. They face not only limited reporting potential but also confusion when they cross the state borders; the rules on court reporting and freedom of information differ in each jurisdiction. What makes it even more difficult for journalists on the court round is, as found in a report chaired by Prue Innes on behalf of Australia’s Right to Know coalition, freedom of access to information given to journalists is often on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, depending on the individual court registries in certain courts at certain times. One reporter who was asked to comment for the report said this:
“A reporter dealing with regional registries says the helpfulness of individual registries […]varies markedly depending on the degree of personal rapport that has been built up with registry staff.”(So journo’s, it’s time to build up even more contacts.)
Another complaint from journalists as found in the Innes report was that suppression orders were given out without full and proper explanation. This is an obvious detriment to the privilege of open justice we are supposed to enjoy here in Australia.
Only last week the Australian media were slapped with yet another restriction on reportable information. Previously it was illegal for persons under the age of sixteen to be identified while on trial. But, according to the new law (which in fact came by surprise to many journalists) it is no longer legal for any persons under the age of 18 to be identified when on trial for a crime.
Considering the Australian law allows persons over the age of sixteen to have sexual intercourse, it would suggest that the law recognises people at sixteen are old enough make decisions for themselves. When a person commits a crime, they are making the decision for themselves to break the law. So why then is Australian law protecting people between sixteen and eighteen who commit crimes when it recognises they are old enough to make their own decisions? (The answer was not allowed to be published.)
Read the Australia’s Right to Know coalition report here: