Contributed from Victoria
A defamation claim is currently before the court. Two award winning journalists, Nick McKenzie and Chris Master, have been taken there to force them to disclose their confidential sources.
The case concerns a story they wrote over allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan during 2012.
McKenzie and Master are both members of the journalist’s union, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), and they are defending themselves because ethical considerations demand, that journalists protect their sources.
In addition, without protecting sources there can be no trust trust, information wont be passed andand journalists cannot do their job of reporingt on allegations of wrongdoing.
MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom says: “MEAA backs our members who are obliged to adhere to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. Clause 3 of the Code says that confidences made to a journalist’s source must be respected in all circumstances. There is no higher principle for journalists the world over.
“Journalists have been found guilty of contempt and jailed for maintaining this ethical principle. But they have not revealed the identity of their confidential source. To do so would be a betrayal of trust. It would have a chilling effect on journalism because whistleblowers would think twice about telling the truth if their identity is exposed.
“The principle of journalists’ privilege is already enshrined in Commonwealth ‘shield’ laws that protect journalists from being compelled by a court to name their sources. Shield laws exist in many countries around the world. To discard the shield at a time when the public’s right to know is already under assault would further damage press freedom in Australia,” Strom says.
This should not be happening in Australia. Unfortunately is it, and if we want to have a right to have a say and to know what the powerful are doing to us, or in our name, defending those who protect these values is important.