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Australian court resumes media trial over cardinal Pell coverage

Sydney, Australia, Jan 28 (efe-epa).- An Australian court Thursday resumed the contempt trial against more than 20 media outlets and journalists for the coverage of the sexual abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell, who was exonerated.

These outlets include publications of tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and Fairfax, which owns The Age newspaper, and are accused of disobeying a judge’s order preventing them from provisionally reporting on Pell’s trial, after he was convicted in December 2018.

This process, in the Supreme Court of the state of Victoria, began on Nov. 9 and is presided over by Judge John Dixon, who in December reduced the 87 charges against the accused to 79.

The process resumed today and is scheduled to continue for two weeks.

At the hearing, the lawyer for The Age, Matt Collins, defended the article published by the outlet on Dec. 12, 2018, a day after Pell was found guilty of sexual abuse, in which it explained why it could not report on the case of a “high profile” Australian.

The Age did not give Pell’s name or details about the jury’s decision, although it did refer to the court order that prohibited coverage of the case.

Collins said Pell’s conviction was in any case disseminated on social networks, where articles published by international media were shared.

He also mentioned that several “angry” readers complained to the newspaper accusing them of being “part of a Catholic conspiracy,” as EFE could verify.

Later, Alex Lavelle, then editor of The Age with a 25-year career in journalism without contempt problems, told the judge he considered the possibility of publishing the story on the same day as the verdict, although after decided to wait for the news to be known elsewhere.

“It seemed clear to me that it was obvious to explore if we could prepare an article that does not violate any law in any way, be it suppression or contempt, and that tells readers why we could not publish this story,” Lavelle said in statements cited by the local AAP agency.

All media and journalists plead “not guilty” to a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fines of up to $ 364,600.

The Victoria Prosecutor’s Office considers the court order imposed that year was violated to prevent the decision on the trial against Pell for sexual abuse from influencing another pending process for pedophilia against the cardinal.

Following the guilty verdict for the sexual abuse of two minors in the 1990s, several Australian media reportedly skipped the ban, which would be formally lifted in February 2019 when the second trial was dismissed.

Pell was later sentenced to six years in prison for five charges of sexual abuse, a ruling ratified in August 2019, but reversed last April by the country’s highest court. EFE-EPA


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