Australian reporters charged over George Pell gag order violations

BostonGlobe.com | 3/26/2019 | Staff
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CANBERRA, Australia — Some of Australia’s highest-profile journalists face possible prison sentences and large media organizations could be fined after being ordered to appear in court next month for allegedly breaching a gag order on reporting about Cardinal George Pell’s convictions on charges of sexually molesting two choirboys.

Reporting in any format accessible from Australia about the former Vatican economy chief’s convictions in a Melbourne court in December was banned by a judge’s suppression order that was only lifted in February.

Suppression - Orders - Systems - Breaches - Jail

Such suppression orders are common in the Australian and British judicial systems, and breaches can result in jail terms. But the enormous international interest in a criminal trial with global ramifications has highlighted the difficulty in enforcing such orders in the digital world.

The Victoria state Supreme Court confirmed on Tuesday that an unprecedented 23 journalists, producers and broadcasters as well as 13 media organizations that employ them have been summoned to appear on April 15 for a preliminary hearing on breaches of the suppression order.

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Damon - Johnston - Editor - Australia - Largest-circulation

They include Damon Johnston, editor of Australia’s largest-circulation newspaper, Herald Sun, and its owner Herald and Weekly Times. The Melbourne newspaper was criticized by Pell lawyers for running a front-page headline saying ‘‘CENSORED’’ following the verdict, as news of the conviction of the most senior Catholic ever charged with child sex abuse was trending on Twitter.

Top-rated Sydney radio broadcaster Ray Hadley and national morning TV program host Debra Knight are among the well-known people facing prosecution.

Pell - Dec - Rape - Acts - Boys

As soon as Pell was convicted on Dec. 11 of oral rape and indecent acts involving two 13-year-old boys while he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s, news began to spread around the world on social media. Some overseas-based media outlets and websites also reported the verdicts, although the sparsity...
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