Chip Le Grand The Australian February 04, 2013
AN attempt to force two of Australia's leading investigative journalists to reveal their sources is headed to the Victorian Court of Appeal.
Journalists Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker from Melbourne's The Age newspaper have been subpoenaed to give evidence in committal proceedings against executives from a Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiary.
The pair have indicated they will refuse to answer questions or provide material that would identify a confidential source, raising the risk of contempt charges.
Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age, failed in an application to presiding Magistrate Phillip Goldberg to have the subpoena set aside and a subsequent appeal to the Victorian Supreme Court.
The media group was today granted leave to argue the case before the Court of Appeal, the state's highest court. Mr Goldberg agreed to stay the subpoena until the appeal was resolved. The appeal will be heard on March 8.
The Walkley Award-winning journalists were called to give evidence after The Age published a story in December last year reporting that Indonesian businessman Radius Christanto had agreed to testify against Australian executives accused of bribing foreign officials to secure polymer banknote contracts.
It was reported that Christanto would give evidence that he had paid bribes on behalf of the Australian company executives to Indonesian officials. Christanto agreed to testify as part of a deal with Australian authorities in which he would plead guilty and receive a reduced jail term, it was reported.
The two journalists are being supported by the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance, which staged a rally on the court steps this morning as the pair was due in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. The Age editor in chief Andrew Holden and Fairfax editorial director Garry Linnell were also in court.
The MEAA described the case as an “assault on press freedom” and likened it to the 2005 proceedings which resulted in contempt convictions being recorded against Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus for refusing to answer questions that would identify a source.
Victorian shield laws designed to protect journalists and their sources came into operation on January 1 - a month after The Age story was published.
The committal hearing was adjourned to April 3.