Yahoo7 has been convicted of contempt of court and fined $300,000 after a junior journalist published a story that led to a Melbourne murder trial being having to be aborted.
The journalist, Krystal Johnson (pictured above), was deemed to not have followed proper editorial procedures and published a story that gave details about a defendant in the trial that could prejudice a jury. The article was published in 2016 in the first week of the trial of Mataio Aleluia, who was charged with murdering his partner Brittany Harvie, and reportedly revealed material that had not been put to the jury.
Last Friday, Victorian Supreme Court Justice John Dixon on Friday berated Yahoo7 for what he called a “serious lack of proper oversight” and said the $300,000 fine was to highlight to all media companies that this sort of reporting was intolerable.
Johnson herself, who is reportedly based in Yahoo7’s Sydney office, was not present when found guilty of contempt of court and was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.
Dixon acknowledged that Johnson felt genuine remorse and the Judge’s fury was levelled at Yahoo7’s practices that allowed a junior reporting to post such a story without legitimate safeguards.
The Judge inferred that the publisher was too preoccupied with deadlines and commercial pressures hence mistakes were happening and were “primary responsibility for the contempt”.
“Commercial pressures, such as meeting deadlines and ensuring there is immediacy regarding the reporting of current affairs, and incentives in the form of larger audiences and substantial profits were at the forefront of Yahoo7’s considerations,” Dixon said, his comments reported on a number of news media sites.
“In view of the kind of high-volume, time pressured work Yahoo7 expected of its journalists, Johnson’s mistake was readily foreseeable,” Dixon said.