MEAA welcomes court decision on Rinehart-Ferguson costs and calls for national shield laws

MEAA1The union representing journalists has welcomed the decision of the Western Australia Supreme Court to force mining magnate Gina Rinehart to pay the costs incurred by Fairfax journalist Adele Feguson in a legal battle over her sources.

Rinehart had taken action against Ferguson in an attempt to subpoena her to produce recordings, texts, notes and emails, however in August last year, Justice Pritchard dismissed the case.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren welcomed the court decision but said it underscored the need for new national shield laws. “The court’s decision underscores the need to acknowledge and respect journalist privilege in relation to the journalists’ ethical requirement to refuse to disclose their confidential sources,” said Warren.

“But it is a principle that still needs to be properly enshrined in law across Australia. And that will require uniform national shield laws which is not the case at the moment.”

The MEAA has long been calling for the government to introduce a uniform national approach to shield laws for journalists, that would better allow them to protect their sources.

The call has come as several of Australia’s leading journalists have faced demands from various courts to provide information related to confidential sources used in their stories.

“No costs, like those in the Rinehart case, would need to be ordered if shield laws properly acknowledged journalist privilege and the ethical obligation to respect confidences in all circumstances at the outset and thus prevented unnecessary legal procedures,” said Warren.

Ferguson told Mumbrella she was relieved to have the legal ordeal over with. “It is great to be able to put it behind me but from a journalistic point of view,” she said. “We still have a long way to go to change the shield laws in this country to protect journalists and stop rich people and companies with deep pockets using the legal system for their own ends.”

Nic Christensen 


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