Category Archives: Whistleblowing

New public interest defamation defence the subject of chapter in investigative journalism book #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

A forthcoming book on changes to investigative journalism across three key liberal democracies features a chapter I have written on the new Australian public interest defence to defamation.

CoatneyCoverInvestigative Journalism in Changing Times – Australian and Anglo-American Reporting, is edited by University of Southern Queensland lecturer Dr Caryn Coatney, who has written five of the 12 chapters.

The book offers new insights into the crucial role of investigative journalism at a pivotal time of technological changes and upheavals.

It surveys innovations and unexpected impacts of the field, from past and present challenges, and what may be in store for the future of the industry.

It is due for publication by Routledge on December 30, 2022.

As explained in its cover notes, the book starts by exploring the increasingly investigative innovations in political and independent reporting, along with a comparison of the rhetoric and reality of a so-called “golden era” of investigative journalism in the past and the present.

The book proceeds to analyse the growth of creative and sports investigative reporting, as well as the ability of contemporary conflict journalism to overcome surmounting challenges.

It also examines the capacity of groundbreaking investigations, including data reporting, to expose injustices involving women, indigenous communities and other minorities.

It features interviews with key industry and research professionals, presenting the reactions of four media experts to the crises faced by investigative journalism in a digital environment of escalating disinformation, legal restrictions and popular interest in the news.

The book concludes by reflecting on previous and current challenges and offers insights into the prospect for investigative journalism of the future.

Presenting unique views on the diversity, resilience and transformative power of investigative journalism, this book will be a valuable resource to students and scholars of journalism, communication, media and politics, as well as professionals already operating within the field of journalism.

My chapter examines the fourth estate principle of the ‘public interest’ as informing important reforms to defamation law in Australia.

It offers an historical and international context to the law around investigative and public interest journalism and tracks some of the financial and legal hurdles investigative journalists and their publishers face when defending defamatory material in their reports.

Shortcomings of the key defences to defamation are highlighted with case examples.

It then details an important recent defamation law reform in Australia – the introduction of a new ‘public interest’ defence modelled on a 2013 UK predecessor – and considers the extent to which it might benefit the enterprise of investigative journalism using historical and international comparisons.

The chapter concludes by speculating how the new defence might have applied hypothetically to a current high-profile trial as a means of examining its potential utility for public interest journalism.

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 2022 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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Filed under censorship, communication, defamation, First Amendment, free expression, global journalism, journalism, journalism education, libel, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, national security, Press freedom, reflective practice, social media, Whistleblowing

Retired magistrate offers advice to court reporters #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Decades of experience as a magistrate and lawyer inform the advice offered to court reporters in Episode #008 of our occasional Griffith University SMALL podcast – Social Media and Law Livestream.

Retired magistrate Antoine Bloemen. Photo: Anne Bloemen.

Griffith University Media Law student Elizabeth Heseltine interviews retired Western Australian magistrate Antoine Bloemen about the traps faced by novice court reporters, with some fascinating examples.

He draws upon his 40 years of expertise as a legal professional to share his insights into courtroom etiquette and the potential legal ramifications of a poorly researched and written article [Listen here: 14:26 min].


If you are a communication professional wanting to study in this area, please consider enrolling in our online courses Social Media Law and Risk Management (postgraduate, fully online) or Media Law (undergraduate, available online or on campus).

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 2022 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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Filed under blogging, communication, contempt of court, defamation, Internet, journalism, journalism education, libel, media law, media literacy, online education, open justice, podcast, public relations, reflective practice, risk, risk management, social media, social media law, strategic communication, sub judice, suppression, Whistleblowing

Podcast offers rare inside view of FOI process

By MARK PEARSON

Episode #007 of our occasional Griffith University SMALL podcast – Social Media and Law Livestream – looks at Freedom of Information processes from a different perspective – that of a lawyer managing the Commonwealth Government’s FOI approvals and exemptions.

FOI Act imageGriffith University Media Law student Mia Durnan interviews Senior Lawyer Rodney Durnan about Freedom of Information laws (FOI); covering basic topics like ‘what is FOI?’, the process of an application, some of the exemptions that can apply and how the FOI laws interact with privacy laws from a practical perspective.

Mr Durnan is part of In-House Counsel for a large Federal Government agency.

With more than 15 years of experience, he and his team specialise in administrative law which includes Freedom of Information and Privacy. [15:25 min] Find Mia’s interview here.


If you are a communication professional wanting to study in this area, please consider enrolling in our online courses Social Media Law and Risk Management (postgraduate, fully online) or Media Law (undergraduate, available online or on campus).

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 2022 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

Leave a comment

Filed under blogging, communication, contempt of court, defamation, Internet, journalism, journalism education, libel, media law, media literacy, online education, open justice, podcast, public relations, reflective practice, risk, risk management, social media, social media law, strategic communication, sub judice, suppression, Whistleblowing

Our SMALL podcast guest: Whistleblower expert Professor AJ Brown

By MARK PEARSON

In episode #006 of our occasional SMALL podcast – Social Media and Law Livestream – I speak with academic whistleblowing expert Professor A J Brown.

AJBrown-e1489729940533Professor Brown is leader of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy’s public integrity and anti-corruption research program in Griffith University’s School of Government and International Relations.

He is on the global board of the world anti-corruption organisation Transparency International and a leading expert on public interest whistleblowing. He talks about the legal framework for whistleblowers and the implications for journalists and their confidential sources. Find our interview here [21:49min].


If you are a communication professional wanting to study in this area, please consider enrolling in our online courses Social Media Law and Risk Management (postgraduate, fully online) or Media Law (undergraduate, available online or on campus).

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 2022 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

Leave a comment

Filed under blogging, communication, contempt of court, defamation, Internet, journalism, journalism education, libel, media law, media literacy, online education, open justice, podcast, public relations, reflective practice, risk, risk management, social media, social media law, strategic communication, sub judice, suppression, Whistleblowing