A Sydney Morning Herald journalist and a scribe from The Australian have today been punted from the Martin Place siege inquest for allegedly photographing inside the courtroom.
Despite threats of contempt of court and even jail terms for the offence, News Corp is reporting that the two journalists have now been allowed back inside the court room and no charges would be laid. The two were reporting on the inquiry into Man Monis who was the nutbag behind the Lindt Café hostage drama in Sydney’s Martin Place in December and was subsequently killed alongside two others.
Reports say The Oz’s Dan Box and The Herald’s Louise Hall were caught photographing a screen showing the proceedings. It is illegal to film and record in many courts in Australia unless legislated. However, journalists can photograph exhibits or witnesses to identify them later; however, the images may not be published.
The News report has also said a Channel Nine cameraman has been warned by court sheriffs for doing something similar.
But clearly the inquiry is creating some confusion for journalists of what can and can’t be photographed or filmed. The current hearing is an inquiry and not a court case and the rules of what can and can’t be done are blurred.
The opening statement by the counsel assisting the inquest was broadcast live via the internet and ABC 24. Members of the public have also been photographing TV and computer screens.
Journalists busted for contempt of court charges can face up to a year in jail or fines as much as $22,000.