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Australian media alliance welcomes court decision protecting journalist's confidential sources

On 6 August 2013, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance welcomed the decision to ensure Steve Pennells, senior journalist with The West Australian, is protected by shield laws and will not have to divulge his confidential sources and information.

MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren says: "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. But it is a principle that still needs to be properly enshrined in law.

It is outrageous that, even with shield laws in place, Steve Pennells was forced through a very lengthy, expensive and stressful series of court procedures before this decision reiterated the position of the law. There is a deficiency in Australia's shield laws if powerful people can still threaten to drag journalists through court procedures in an effort to disclose information which they know the journalists is ethically required never to divulge."

The MEAA has called on federal, territory and state Attorneys-General to introduce uniform shield laws to ensure that powerful people cannot go jurisdiction shopping and to properly protect journalist privilege. The move came in February this year as five MEAA members faced court orders to disclose their sources, usually in cases mounted by powerful, wealthy business people. Senior Fairfax journalist Adele Ferguson, like Pennells, is also waiting to hear on the outcome of an order in a case also launched by Gina Rinehart that demands Ferguson reveal information given to her by a confidential source.

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