The State Opposition has made an election promise to review Queensland’s current laws in a bid to better protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources.
- Under the Government’s proposal, journalists faced jail time for reporting corruption allegations during an election campaign
- The LNP has written to the MEAA vowing to have the Law Reform Commission examine protections for Queensland journalists
- The MEAA says Queensland is the only state or territory not offering source protection to journalists
The commitment came after the State Government withdrew within 24 hours a controversial proposal to gag media from reporting corruption allegations during election campaigns.
Under the proposal now scrapped by the Government, journalists would have faced six months in jail or a fine if they reported on corruption allegations made to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) during election periods.
In a letter to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington and Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki said the LNP would ask the Queensland Law Reform Commission to review current laws and report back by June 30 next year.
“It is worth noting that the Palaszczuk Government were eager to pass urgent laws to cover up corruption complaints ahead of the next state election, but took significant time to amend conflict of interest laws, known as the ‘Trad laws’, following a Crime and Corruption Commission assessment finalised in September 2019.
“Queenslanders have a right to know about serious corruption matters or other significant injustices involving their government and protecting the freedom of the media is a fundamental part of our democracy.”
The commitment followed a Supreme Court ruling in Brisbane that a television news reporter had no protection after refusing to reveal confidential sources and answer questions at a CCC hearing.
Queensland lacks shield laws
The LNP’s letter said the party, if it won government, would take decisive action to protect freedom of the press and it supported calls for updates to so-called shield laws, to allow journalists to claim qualified legal privilege to protect their confidential sources of information.
When asked about shield laws at a media conference on Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would “have to talk to the Attorney-General about that”.
MEAA Queensland director Michelle Rae said Queensland was the only Australian state or territory that did not give legal protection to journalists for declining to name their sources.
“The protection of sources is a fundamental responsibility for ethical journalism,” Ms Rae said.
“Consequently, our democracy would be diminished.
“Shield laws allow a journalist to claim legal privilege in order to protect a confidential source.
“This privilege may be waived if a judicial officer is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so.”