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Report No. 93

Chapter 5

Commonwealth Countries

5.1. Australia.-

The position in a few Commonwealth countries on the subject under consideration may now be mentioned in brief. Australia follows the general rule of the common law that, in the absence of a statutory provision, journalists have no right to refuse to disclose, in proceedings before the Court, the source of their information.1 The following observations of Starke, J.,2 made in regard to proceedings before a Royal Commission of Inquiry that had been set up to determine the truth of allegations made publicly by the journalist himself, are applicable to proceedings before courts also:

"Next it was submitted that the source of the appellant's information upon which the newspaper articles were based was privileged and that he could not be compelled to disclose it. No such privilege exists according to law. Apart from statutory provisions, the Press, in courts of law, has no greater and no less privilege than every subject of the king."

In the above case, the articles published by the editor had alleged that certain members of the Victorian Parliament (not named) had accepted bribes in connection with two Bills introduced into Parliament. The Royal Commission put him a question as to the source of his information, which he declined to answer. He was convicted of an offence under the Evidence Act, 1928 and fined £ 15. He appealed to the High Court of Australia, which held that he had been rightfully convicted.

1. Mr. Justice David Hunt Why No First Amendment? The Role of the Press in relation to Justice, (1980) 54 ALJ 456-462.

2. McGuinnes v. Attorney-General of Victoria, (1946) 63 CLR 73 (91) (High Court of Australia).

Disclosure of Sources of Information by Mass Media Back

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