Media representatives in the dock

Media representatives in the dock

Cardinal George Pell surrounded by members of the media © Daniel Pockett/AAP

Now the reporting on the Pell case is occupying the judiciary: in Australia, proceedings have begun against dozens of publishers, editors and reporters for their publications in the abuse proceedings against Cardinal George Pell.

The media representatives are accused of violating the comprehensive reporting ban ordered by the court in this context. Among the defendants are editors of the daily newspapers "The Age," "Herald Sun" and "The Sydney Morning Herald," as well as presenters of radio and television stations.

Violation of the ban on reporting

According to the prosecution, the defendants interfered with the proceedings against Pell through their reporting and contributed to foreign media disregarding the reporting ban. This, they say, has "scandalized" the court and the proceedings. A legal counsel for the accused denied the accusations.

There is no precedent of this kind in Australian law, and the crime of "scandalization" does not exist. Moreover, all charges were formulated only vaguely. This was already agreed by the judge in charge, John Dixon, as reported by The Age. In addition, Dixon had hinted at possibly splitting the process into several individual proceedings.

The proceedings against Cardinal Pell, the former head of finance of the Vatican, for abuse of two minors had been opened in August. On 13. March he was sentenced to six years in prison. Pell (77) has lodged an appeal. This trial is scheduled to begin in June.

Protection from public interference

The court had imposed a ban on reporting and justified this with the protection of the judge and the jurors from public interference. The decree applied "to all states and territories in Australia and to all websites or other electronic (media) or broadcast formats accessible in Australia". The ban explicitly referred to reports about the ban itself.

The so-called gag order was lifted in February after a planned second abuse trial against the cardinal fell through. This cleared the way for legal reporting of the sentencing announcement.

Despite a ban, the accused media had previously reported, in a covert manner, that Pell, on 11. December had been found guilty by a jury on five counts of sexually abusing two teenage males.

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