Apologies for my delay in writing up the second instalment of the media law lectures, I've been slightly consumed with the world of shorthand!
Tuesday's lecture was concerned with reporting the courts. We have of course all heard of free speech however, certain restrictions are applicable when it comes to court room reporting.
My main point of interest in this lecture lay with identifying when a case becomes 'active,' because this has a large impact on what can or cannot be published in relation to the case. There are somewhat mixed opinions on when a case becomes active. Is it when a suspect is arrested? Or when they are charged? Chris Horrie advised that the case be treated as active as soon as an arrest is made. I suppose it is best to be careful from the outset about what you publish, as we are all fully aware from last weeks lecture, one small mistake could lead to a jail sentence. Once a verdict has been reached on the case, it is no longer active and there is much more freedom on what can be reported and this is when you will find many biased reports working their way into the newspapers. It surprises me that there are not stricter laws regarding post verdict reporting.
Although what can be written before and during a court case must be treated in a somewhat sensitive respect, the public rely on the media and journalists to keep them informed but reporting carries a lot of risk. If a case is not reported in an accurate and fair manner then you could be sued for libel or malice if there is a certain lack of balance in the coverage of a case.
It seems that there are ever increasing restrictions on what is deemed acceptable to be published. I will focus on this in much more detail later this week after the next media law lecture on defamation.