Australian media charges over Cardinal Pell trial ‘chilling’ for open justice — lawyer

Cardinal George Pell walks to a car in Melbourne on December 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Australian media charges over Cardinal Pell trial ‘chilling’ for open justice — lawyer

  • Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($71,000) for individuals, and nearly A$500,000 for companies

MELBOURNE: Charges against dozens of journalists and publishers in Australia over the reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s child sex abuse conviction will have a chilling effect on future news reporting if they are found guilty of breaching a suppression order, a lawyer defending the press told a court on Monday.
Prosecutors in the southern state of Victoria have accused 23 journalists and 13 news outlets of aiding and abetting contempt of court by overseas media and breaching suppression orders aimed at ensuring Pell a fair trial.
Pell became the most senior Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex abuse and was jailed for six years in February. He is awaiting an appeal.
Among those facing contempt charges are Nine Entertainment Co, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, Macquarie Media, and several News Corp. publications.
Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($71,000) for individuals, and nearly A$500,000 for companies.
Monday was the first day in court for a case that at once underscores the potentially severe consequences of breaching court reporting rules and their ineffectiveness at containing coverage in the digital news era.
A guilty verdict would have a “chilling effect” on open justice and democracy in Australia, said Matthew Collins QC, a lawyer representing all of the charged media organizations and reporters.
The county court of Victoria last year put a suppression order on reporting of Pell’s trial, or its eventual outcome, to prevent jury prejudice ahead of a second trial, which was eventually dropped.
In December, the jury in the first trial found Pell guilty of abusing two choir boys. The verdict was widely reported by foreign outlets online. Some Australian media alluded to the conviction without naming Pell directly.
Collins pressed the prosecution for more information about how Australian journalists could have broken court rules because none mentioned Pell by name or his conviction.
“I am at a loss to understand how they could have scandalized the court,” he said.
“They didn’t reference the cardinal, just referred to the fact that there was a broader story that could not be told.”
None of the accused journalists were present and Supreme Court Judge John Dixon ordered that prosecutors file an outline of their case by May 20 and that the matter return to court on June 26.


Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

  • Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.
The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”
Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 US elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Unlike other major US tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.
He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.
Trump has been upset about losing followers.
In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join — they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?“
Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.
Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.
Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.
Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.
Democratic US Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”
Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”