Sydney, Australia, Nov 9 (efe-epa).- About 30 Australian journalists, editors and media groups have sat on the dock charged with contempt Monday when reporting on the sexual abuse process against Cardinal George Pell despite a court order preventing them from doing so.
In June 2018, an Australian judge imposed a suppression order to prevent the decision on the trial against Pell for sexual abuse from influencing another pending process for sexual abuse against the cardinal.
Following the guilty verdict, issued by a lower court in December 2018, several Australian media allegedly skipped the ban, formally lifted in February 2019 when the second trial was dismissed.
Pell, a former Vatican No. 3, was later sentenced to six years in prison on five counts of sexual abuse, a ruling ratified in August 2019, but reversed in April by the country’s highest court.
The process started Monday in the Supreme Court of Victoria, the state where Pell was tried, affects media such as Herald Sun and The Age, as well as the media group News, founded by Rupert Murdoch, among others.
All media and journalists pleaded “not guilty” to a charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fines of up to AUS 500,000 ($364,600.)
On the first day, prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari argued journalists and media were aware of the existence of a suppression order, which did not allow reporting on the trial against Pell until it was lifted.
According to the prosecutor, the court in charge of Pell’s case sent an email to journalists, their editing tables or the legal departments of the media.
The prosecution believes defendants violated the court order that prevented the publication or dissemination of a ruling that found Pell guilty of sexually abusing two minors in the 1990s.
While several international media were able to publish the guilty verdict without judicial repercussion, the prosecution considers Australian media directly or indirectly evaded the order.
The Herald Sun, cited by the prosecution as an example, placed a black box with the word “Censored” in white and a text that read: “The world is reading this important story that is relevant to Victoria.”
“A high profile Australian known throughout the world was convicted of a serious crime but his details cannot be published by any media in the country,” another outlet wrote, according to the prosecutor remarked during the trial opening.
Attorney Will Houghton, who represents the News group, said the prosecution may fail to show that its clients received the communication relevant to the suppression and warn it would carry “very serious consequences if convicted.” EFE-EPA