Header Ads Widget

The Australian media has been fined for their coverage of Cardinal George Pell's conviction.

George Pell was convicted of sexually molesting two choir boys, although he was subsequently acquitted on appeal. The media outlets reportedly disregarded the court's gag order.


Sydney: A dozen prominent Australian news outlets were fined Friday for violating court orders that barred them from publishing on Cardinal George Pell's 2018 conviction on child sex abuse charges, which was subsequently reversed.

The news outlets were found guilty of 21 charges of contempt of court for violating the gag order in the case of Pell, a senior Vatican official accused of assaulting two choirboys but subsequently exonerated on appeal after serving a year in jail.

They were fined a total of Aus$1.1 million (US$855,000) and forced to pay court expenses of an extra Aus$650,000.

The news organizations had previously pleaded guilty in an agreement with the court that resulted in contempt charges against 18 individual journalists and editors who risked prison time if they were also convicted.

In his decision on Friday, Justice John Dixon of the Supreme Court of Victoria state stated the defendants' previous guilty plea had "not exhibited a sufficient degree of sorrow and contrition," but was fabricated to shield their workers from individual prosecution.

The majority of the penalties were issued on newspapers and websites owned by Australia's two largest news organizations, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and the Nine Entertainment group.

Dixon called the reporting by the two media behemoths a "blatant and willful contempt of the court's authority."

"They each took a calculated risk by launching a collateral assault on the function of suppression orders and Victoria's court system," he said.

Penalties were imposed on other businesses ranging from $10,000 to $30,000.

The suppression order was imposed by a court in December 2018 to prevent news of Pell's convictions from prejudicing jurors in an upcoming second trial on child sex abuse accusations, which were later dismissed in early 2019.

The ruling meant that Pell's 2018 convictions for abusing two choirboys in the 1990s, which were reversed by the High Court this April, could not be reported in Australia, including on the internet, for the time being.

In response to the gag order, media outlets published cryptic pieces claiming that they had been banned from publishing on a matter of substantial public interest involving a prominent Australian after US outlets broke the news.

One Murdoch tabloid featured a completely blacked-out front page with the title "Censored" across it.

Post a Comment