Category Archives: media law

Australian metadata laws put confidential interviews at risk, with no protections for research

By MARK PEARSON

Interviews from a range of sensitive research topics may be at risk. These include immigration, crime and corruption.
Shutterstock

EACH year, academics and students make countless applications for research ethics approval, based on the promise of confidentiality to their interview subjects. Interviewees sometimes offer academic researchers information that might be self-incriminating or might jeopardise the rights and liberties of others they’re discussing.

But Australia’s metadata retention laws can lead to the identification and even incrimination of the very people whose identities academic researchers have promised to keep secret for their work.

Imagine, for instance, a criminologist conducting a project examining white collar crime in banking and financial services. The academic’s confidential interviews with former company directors and executives might elicit specific and revealing answers. It could lead to potential redundancy or even jail time, depending on their vulnerability and culpability.

Under the metadata laws, government agencies make hundreds of thousands of requests to Australian telcos each year for their customers’ phone and internet communications metadata.

For the criminologist, this means relevant agencies can ask telcos to access his or her metadata in the form of call records and computer IP addresses. This means they can identify whether a person of interest has been in communication with the researcher and is the possible source of incriminating material. Other investigations and legal steps might then follow.

Interviews about a range of sensitive research topics may be at risk. These include immigration, crime and corruption, national security, policing, politics, international relations and policy.

The impact of metadata laws on journalists and their sources have been well documented. But we can only wonder how many people will agree to participate in academic research if they are made fully aware of the real potential of being identified by investigators.

Interested?

READ my full article in The Conversation.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

Leave a comment

Filed under free expression, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, national security, open justice, Press freedom, sub judice, suppression, terrorism

Submission to inquiry shows journalism educators and students lack metadata source protection

By MARK PEARSON

Australian journalists have a narrow and inadequate protection under national security laws from government agencies accessing their metadata to discover the identity of their confidential sources.

I helped the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) prepare a parliamentary committee submission that explains journalism educators and journalism students do not even qualify for that low level of protection, leaving their confidential sources open to revelation.

Our submission now sits with several others on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security site here.

We have asked that legislators focus on the public interest journalism involved when awarding such defences and protections rather than focussing simply on whether someone is a ‘journalist‘ – an occupation and term difficult to define in the modern era – and used as the default for the rare privileges given.

We have proposed that

existing and proposed protections for ‘journalists and media organisations’ be extended to apply to the research and outputs of journalism educators and their students when they are engaged in ‘public interest journalism’, whether or not they are paid to work as journalists and whether or not their work is published by a ‘media organisation’ in its traditional sense.

We have also asked that the Commonwealth lead a reform initiative to unify all state, territory an Commonwealth media laws across a range of publication restrictions to do away with anachronistic inconsistencies and introduce a public interest journalism defence or exemption so that courts are prompted to balance the various interests at stake before issuing a warrant against a journalist or taking criminal action.

The Committee is now entering the phase of public hearings. See their site here.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under free expression, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, national security, open justice, Press freedom, sub judice, suppression, terrorism

Mindfulness strategies explained at Asian Media conference

By MARK PEARSON

Our work on mindfulness-based meditation in the journalism education pedagogy was presented to the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) conference in Bangkok last month to an enthusiastic audience.

Here is the abstract of our presentation for interested blog readers.

“Mindful journalism in action: applications for resilience, learning and ethics”, presented at AMIC Bangkok, June 17, 2019

Mark Pearson, Griffith University

Cait McMahon, Dart Centre Asia Pacific

Analise O’Donovan, Griffith University

The term ‘mindful journalism’ – coined in 2013 (Pearson, 2013) and theorised in 2014 and 2015 (Pearson, 2014; Gunaratne et. al, 2015) – shares some features with other modern ‘journalisms’ (‘solutions’ (Solutions Journalism Network, 2016), ‘peace’ (Lynch, 2010) and ‘inclusive’ (Rupar & Pesic, 2012)). However, it is distinguished by the fact that it includes elements of secular Buddhist approaches to mindfulness-based meditation and ethics (Pearson, 2014; Gunaratne et. al, 2015).

This paper uses a recently released conceptual map (Pearson et. al., 2019) to explain the potentialities of mindful journalism to strengthen journalism students’ resilience, deepen their learning, and shore up their moral compasses as they enter occupations where their work can expose them to trauma (Drevo, 2016) and industry disruption can subject them to stress, burnout and other mental health challenges (O’Donnell, 2017). It details some key ways mindful journalism (and mindfulness-based meditation) have been introduced to the curriculum and pedagogy in a media law course, with a strong emphasis upon emotional and situational analysis of media law dilemmas, as an alternative to a black-letter style of teaching media law cases, legislation and topics (Pearson et. al, 2018). The approach offers a useful extension to problem-based learning and provides the tools by which educators can encourage their students to engage in ‘reflective practice’ or ‘reflection in action’ by which they can purposively reflect upon their learning when confronted with new ethical or technological dilemmas  (Schön, 1987).

Students and journalists are equipped with a toolkit of techniques for inward reflection which they can use to assess their thought processes, emotional state, situation, ethics and learning. The approach is in accord with the research on metacognition in psychology and education (Flavell, 1976; Tarricone, 2011) which has found that reflection upon one’s thinking, knowledge and experiences can deepen learning and – we argue – in a mindful journalism context can help engage in professional conduct with both wisdom and compassion. It also builds on the research in a range of occupations showing the potential for mindfulness-based meditation in improving resilience which can help minimise the risks of post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and burnout (Chaukos et al., 2017; Hölzel et al., 2011; Keng et al., 2011; Trammel (2015)).

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Eightfold Path, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, media law, mindful journalism, online education, reflective practice, social media

My latest Conversation piece on media implications of NT youth justice proposals #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

For the past week, momentum has been building for a national parliamentary inquiry into media freedom following the police raids on ABC and News Corp journalists.

But the issue of press freedom isn’t restricted to Canberra – there’s another contentious debate taking place at the moment in the Northern Territory over a plan by the government to close the NT’s courts to the media in cases involving young offenders.

The debate centres on a bill that would introduce the nation’s most restrictive rules on reporting on juvenile offenders, including punishments of up to a year in jail for journalists who enter a juvenile court or publish details of any case.

Interested? Read my full article in The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/nt-wants-to-end-naming-and-shaming-of-juvenile-offenders-sparking-press-freedom-debate-118170


© Mark Pearson 2019

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

Leave a comment

Filed under contempt of court, courts, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, open justice, sub judice

Rare criminal defamation charge in Queensland – #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

QUEENSLAND police have charged a Sunshine Coast man with criminal defamation under a rarely used provision of the Criminal Code 1899.

They will allege he distributed pamphlets to neighbourhood homes claiming a former associate was a paedophile.

As Lord Denning, in the 1977 Goldsmith case, said, ‘A criminal libel is so serious that the offender should be punished for it by the state itself. He should either be sent to prison or made to pay a fine to the state itself’ (at 485).

As we explain in the sixth edition of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Pearson and Polden, Allen & Unwin, 2019, pp 298-299), instances of criminal defamation usually arise between ordinary citizens rather than in the media.

Examples include the Wineries case (1998), where a disgruntled businessman penned a letter, purportedly from his business partner’s wife, in which she described her husband as someone who ‘engages in adultery, deception, taxation fraud and is a confidence trickster’ who could be ‘compared to the worst, most infectious, bacterial parasite which can only be found at the bottom of the most unhygienic sewage scum swamp’.

The man sent the letter to at least one South Australian winery and pleaded guilty to criminal defamation.

In 2001, a quadriplegic woman and her mother were charged with six counts of criminal defamation after they allegedly posted notices accusing townsfolk of perjuring themselves in her compensation claim against the local council and its swimming pool operators (Quadriplegic case, 2001). Police later dropped the charges.

Horse racing identities Robert and William Waterhouse prosecuted the producer and reporter of an ABC Four Corners program. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions eventually stepped in to prevent the defamation prosecutions from proceeding because the defence of qualified privilege was going to be available (Waterhouse case, 1988).

The most famous instance in Australia was the politically motivated prosecution of leftist author Frank Hardy for criminal libel over his volcanic first novel Power Without Glory in August 1950, which he successfully defended.

Sadly, criminal defamation and seditious libel have often been used as political weapons against opposition groups and the media in many small Commonwealth countries.

For media law geeks, the Queensland legislation reads as follows:

—–

CRIMINAL CODE 1899 – SECT 365

Criminal defamation

365 Criminal defamation

(1) Any person who, without lawful excuse, publishes matter defamatory of another living person (the
“relevant person” )—

(a) knowing the matter to be false or without having regard to whether the matter is true or false; and

(b) intending to cause serious harm to the relevant person or any other person or without having regard to whether serious harm to the relevant person or any other person is caused;

commits a misdemeanour.

Penalty—

Maximum penalty—3 years imprisonment.

(2) In a proceeding for an offence defined in this section, the accused person has a lawful excuse for the publication of defamatory matter about the relevant person if, and only if, subsection (3) applies.

(3) This subsection applies if the accused person would, having regard only to the circumstances happening before or at the time of the publication, have had a relevant defencefor the publication if the relevant person had brought civil proceedings for defamation against the accused person.

(4) The prosecution has the burden of negativing the existence of a lawful excuse if, and only if, evidence directed to establishing the excuse is first adduced by or on behalf of the accused person.

(5) Whether the matter complained of is capable of bearing a defamatory meaning is a question of law.

(6) Whether the matter complained of does bear a defamatory meaning is a question of fact.

(7) A person can not be prosecuted for an offence defined in this section without the consent of the director of public prosecutions.

(8) In this section—
“defamatory” has the meaning that it has in the law of tort (as modified by the Defamation Act 2005 ) relating to defamation.
“modified statutory defence of justification” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 25 as if that section provided that it is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that—

(a) the defamatory imputations carried by the matter of which the relevant person complains are substantially true; and

(b) it was for the public benefit that the publication should be made.

“publish” has the meaning that it has in the law of tort (as modified by the Defamation Act 2005 ) relating to defamation.
“relevant defence” means—

(a) a defence available under the Defamation Act 2005 other than—

(i) the statutory defence of justification; or

(ii) the statutory defence of failure to accept reasonable offer; or

(b) the modified statutory defence of justification; or

(c) a defence available other than under the Defamation Act 2005 , including under the general law.

“statutory defence of failure to accept reasonable offer” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 18 (1) .
“statutory defence of justification” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 25 .

JGML6eCOVERorange

 

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019

 

Leave a comment

Filed under defamation, free expression, journalism, media law, Media regulation

Last chance for a NSW law reform preliminary submission on open justice #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Preliminary submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s open justice review close tomorrow (May 31).

Media law students who have done assignments on this topic might polish them up and submit.

The review is examining the operation of suppression and non-publication orders and access to information in NSW courts and tribunals.

See their site for:

The Commission is  inviting preliminary submissions to help frame the issues they should address in consultations. Later in 2019, they promise to produce one or more consultation papers that ask about the issues identified by the terms of reference and any preliminary submissions they receive.

The deadline for preliminary submissions is Friday 31 May 2019.

Information about making a submission may be found on t website: Making a submission

 

© Mark Pearson 2019

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

Leave a comment

Filed under contempt of court, media law, open justice, sub judice

Building mindfulness into the online media law curriculum

By MARK PEARSON

Our Arts Education and Law group at Griffith University held a learning and teaching symposium on the Gold Coast this week.

I was invited to speak on my incorporation of mindfulness into the curriculum and pedagogy, and to explain how I have been using a single course site to service on-campus and online students in a single cohort.

Here is a PDF file of my presentation for educators and students who might be interested in the approach.

 

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under free expression, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, mindful journalism, online education, reflective practice, social media