Australian media pleads guilty for contempt in Pell coverage
Sydney, Australia, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- A dozen Australian media pleaded guilty Monday for contempt of a court order that banned them from reporting on a 2018 sexual abuse conviction imposed on Cardinal George Pell, who was later exonerated.
The newspapers include The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, of the Fairfaix group, as well as The Herald and Weekly Times, owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, according to a virtual Supreme Court hearing in Melbourne, Victoria.
“The companies have said they will plead guilty, with respect to each of the publications for which they are accused, of contempt for failure to comply with the order to suppress the procedure,” a document from the Supreme Court in charge of the process read.
The Victoria Prosecutor’s Office will withdraw charges against more than a dozen people, including journalists or editors, as well as the remaining charges against media companies, according to the document obtained by EFE.
In this process against almost thirty media, journalists and editors, the lawyer for The Age newspaper, Matt Collins, said Thursday that the article was published by this paper on Dec. 12, 2018, a day after Pell was found guilty of sexual abuse.
The article explained why it could not report on the case of a “high profile” Australian, without giving Pell’s name or details of the jury’s decision, although it did refer to the court order prohibiting the case’s coverage.
Collins said Pell’s conviction was in any case disseminated on social media, where articles published by international media were shared and mentioned that several “angry” readers complained to the newspaper accusing them of being “part of a Catholic conspiracy.”
The paperS, which faces fines of up to AUD 500,000 ($ 364,600), in addition to legal costs, have yet to plead guilty before Judge John Dixon who is handling the case, in hearings to be resumed Feb. 10.
The Victoria Prosecutor’s Office said 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 the same charge against the cardinal.
Following a 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 counts of sexual abuse, a ruling ratified in August 2019, but reversed last April by the country’s highest court. EFE-EPA