New laws to silence media during elections

 

It will become an offence to publish corruption allegations levelled against candidates for state and local government elections under new laws introduced by the State Labor Government.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath introduced the laws today outlawing newspapers, radio, television or internet reports of allegations being referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The offence will carry a $6672 fine or a six-month jail term.

The laws will only cover the caretaker period of an election, after writs are issued.

"The definition of 'publish' under the Bill is intended to target publication that has the potential to deliver information to a mass audience," the Bill's explanatory notes read.

"The definition covers newspaper, radio or television or other electronic or printed forms of mass media."

Despite journalists facing criminal sanctions, Ms D'Ath confirmed local members would be free to tell constituents of such allegations.

"For example, a print or online newspaper article or information posted to a public social media account would be caught but a local member writing to inform an individual constituent that a matter has been referred to the CCC would not," she told Parliament.

Ms D'Ath said the Government was adopting the "independent and considered advice" of the CCC in introducing the laws.

The CCC had recommended the changes in 2016 and this year, following its investigation into the appointment of the new Inner-City South State Secondary College, which cleared local MP Jackie Trad of allegations of corruption but raised issues with the actions of Education Department staff.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath


However the investigation cost the former deputy premier and treasurer her cabinet post, as she resigned her role during the investigation.

"The offences contained in this Bill are designed to enhance the integrity of Queensland's electoral processes by ensuring that public debate in an election period is not hijacked by the publication of baseless allegations and complaints that are politically motivated and designed to do nothing more than inflict reputational damage on political opponents," the Attorney-General said.

"Queenslanders have the right to be fully and reliably informed in relation to relevant matters as they head to the polls - not distracted by publication of fanciful allegations and complaints."

Ms D'Ath said the CCC had reported that having allegations in the public domain was "not ideal and may impede the integrity of their investigation".

"The publication of a complaint can also lead to unsubstantiated allegations being aired publicly and may give the appearance of a complaint is motivated by political gain or other reasons," she said.

"Publicising allegations may also damage the reputation of a person alleged to have engaged in corrupt conduct and compromise the fair trial of persons charged with corruption."

Originally published as New laws to silence media during elections



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