Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Journalist’s contempt or contempt for journalists?

Posted by occidentprone on July 7, 2008

Refusing to name sources could land a Sunday Times journalist in jail.

ABC reports that Paul Lampathakis today appeared before an Upper House committee investigating the April raid on the Times‘ offices.

(Lampathakis)  refused to answer questions on who leaked confidential Cabinet information to him that formed the basis of his story.

The Chairman of the Select Committee George Cash told Mr Lampathakis that his refusal to answer the question could amount to a contempt of the Parliament punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Mr Cash also warned it could be regarded as a breach of the Criminal Code which would carry a penalty of two years imprisonment or a $24,000 fine.

Mr Cash said the Upper House would need to consider the matter when it next sits.

Lampathakis is cause celebre at Mothership Murdoch and PerthNow

Mr Lampathakis was asked three times to name the whistleblower and three times he refused to answer. 

Mr Lampathakis also declined to answer questions which could identify the source of the information used in the story, saying it was not relevant to the committee’s terms of reference and went against the journalistic code of ethics which protected the identity of whistleblowers.

…During the hearing, committee member Adele Farina asked Mr Lampathakis if he believed he or his sources were above the law, to which he answered no.

She also asked the reporter if he would protect the identity of a source if he knew that person was going to commit murder.

Mr Lampathakis rejected the comparision between a “horrible crime” and a political story.

Let’s think about this. Breaching cabinet confidentiality is an offence. Except if it’s in the government’s interests presumably? Like pre-budget leaks. But what harm has been done to the government in this case apart from ministerial pride injured?

Journalists do not have the protection afforded doctors and priests and lawyers – and nor should they. And many are not living up to community expectations of them but that does not justify witchhunts. Hopefully the community will resist the newsstands and switch off the telly when the service is not ethical and not up to scratch but the community should still expect that their news is not censored in any way – by government or self-censored by a cowed media. 

  • View the MEAA’s journalist’s code of ethics here and count the ways this state’s newspapers, telly, radio and net media can improve.

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