Free expression

With thanks for contributions from Leanne O’Donnell (@mslods /,  Virginia Leighton-Jackson and Griffith University media freedom interns

Chapter 2: Free expression and mindful practice

Recent cases

Lex Wotton v. High Court of Australia

  • Wotton, arrested after a riot on Palm Island in the aftermath of the Doomadgee death in Police Custody case, was banned from speaking to the media after his release.
    • Critics are concerned that this places restrictions not only on his right to freedom of speech (which is further impinged upon by being banned from attending public meetings which on parole), but also that it restricts the media’s ability to report on matters of public interest, in this case, police brutality towards Indigenous Palm Islanders.
      • Highlights a lack of constitutional protection.
      • A total of 22 restrictions were placed on Wotton during his parole.
    • Wotton’s parole ended in August 2014, enabling him to speak to the ABC about the death in custody issue, racism, police brutality, and his concerns that it look 10 years after Doomadgee’s death for him to be able to speak to the media.

– Virginia Leighton-Jackson

Wotton v. Queensland [2012] HCA 2 (29 February 2012)

Carrick, D. 07.08.2012, “Lex Wotton speaks out about Palm Island riot”, ABC Radio National, Law Report, 17.02.2015, <>

Black, P. 05.03.2012, “Silencing Lex Wotton: Palm Island riot decision a blow for freedom of speech”, The Conversation, 17.02.2015, <>


Channel Seven and the Bruderhof Community

  • The ACMA has ruled that Channel Seven committed multiple breaches of accuracy and misrepresentation in their Today Tonight story on the Bruderhof Community in March 2013 “Death of a Believer”. The Community, based in the US, set up an outpost in rural Australia for their religiously based group. One promo for the report said: “Playing God… the cult and their doctor. They prayed for six days, instead of seeking medical help for a dying woman.”
    • The report itself claims no medical help was provided.
    • The report places an excessive amount of focus on the religious beliefs of the group.
  • The ACMA said that the report was inaccurate in its claims that the lack of medical care caused the woman’s death, and that the report could encourage contempt or ridicule of the group because of the emphasis on the religion of the group.
    • Full list of findings: Misleading dramatisations, inaccuracies, lack of sensitivity in interview with bereaved relative, unfair identification of an individual, gratuitous focus on religion and provocation of dislike, contempt and ridicule on grounds of religion in segment ‘The Death of a Believer’. Inaccuracies in promotion for the segment.

– Virginia Leighton-Jackson

ACMA, 2014, 2014 Television Investigations, 17.02.2015, <>

Meade, A, 30.07.2014, “Channel Seven breached rules of accuracy on Bruderhof Story – ACMA”, The Guardian, 17.02.2015, <>


Recent news

Reporting on asylum seekers

  • The Guardian’s reporter Paul Farrell discusses journalists’ reporting on asylum seekers being referred to the Federal Police to try and uncover leaks in the system.
    • Part of the Abbott Government policy of not providing information to the media about illegal immigration/ boat people/ asylum seekers
    • Adds to concerns about potential breach of confidence for whistle blowers and confidential sources

– Virginia Leighton-Jackson


Farrell, P. 22.01.2015, “Journalists reporting on asylum seekers referred to Australian Police”, The Guardian, 17.02.2015, <>

Updates to the Australian Press Council Statement of General Principles

  • In July of 2014 the APC issued a revised Statement of General Principles which now sits alongside the Statement of Privacy Principles. Update has been issued for clarity and effectiveness.

APC, 18.07.2014, “Release of revised Statement of General Principles”, APC Update: Issue 33, 17.02.2015, <>

APC, 2014, “Statement of Principles”, Standards, 17.02.2014, <>


One response to “Free expression

  1. Pingback: Journlaw running updates to The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law | journlaw

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