Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

Scandalising media freedom: Resurrection of an ancient contempt

Volume 14, Issue 1

March, 2008

From page
64
to page
78
Pearson, M. (2008). Scandalising media freedom: Resurrection of an ancient contempt. Pacific Journalism Review, 14(1): 64-78.
Author(s): Mark Pearson
Publication date: 
April, 2008

The ancient charge of ‘scandalising the court’ (publications aiming at lowering the authority of the court) has had a resurgence in Australia over the past decade, at the very time judges and magistrates have developed an inclination to sue for defamation. The combined effect is to send warning to media organisations to take care when criticising judical officers or the judical process, particularly if that involves implying some improper motive on the part of a judge or magistrate. In New Zealand there have been some isloated but significant threats and cases, particularly in the volatile area of family law. This article reviews some recent Australian and New Zealand cases where a charge of scandalising the court has been either threatend or enforced and considers the implications for freedom of media expression in a new era of anti-terrorism when important questions are being asked about the fairness of justice processes.