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Australian media challenge ‘unprecedented’ contempt charges over Pell reporting | News | World

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The lawyer defending Australia’s biggest news organisations against contempt charges for their reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s sex crimes conviction denounced on Monday what he called an unprecedented attack on press freedom in the country.

Twenty-three journalists and 13 media companies face fines and prison terms for allegedly breaching a gag order not to report on last year’s trial of Pell for child sex abuse.

Pell, 77, the most senior Catholic cleric convicted of sex crimes, was found guilty in December of abusing two choirboys and is serving a six-year prison term.
He has appealed the conviction.

The court had banned all reporting of the case pending a second trial scheduled for this month, but the gag order was lifted in February when that trial was cancelled.

Some foreign media, including The New York Times and the Washington Post, reported Pell’s conviction in December, while local media ran cryptic articles complaining that they were being prevented from reporting a story of major public interest.

The Australian media and reporters were accused of abetting contempt of court by the foreign press and of “scandalising the court” by breaching the suppression order, despite none of them reporting on the charges involved or mentioning Pell by name.

If convicted, journalists face prison terms of up to five years and the news organisations fines of up to AU$500 000 (US$360 000).

Matthew Collins, representing the accused media at the first hearing on the matter on Monday, said such wide-ranging contempt charges had “no precedent” in Australian legal history.

“There are simply no cases of which we are aware in Australia where media organisations, editors or journalists have been charged, much less found guilty, of contempt in circumstances such as these,” he was quoted by local media as telling the court in Melbourne.

READ MORE: Australia — Nation unites over abuses at Ballarat

Collins added that a guilty verdict on any of the charges would have a “chilling effect” on open justice in Australia.

He added that the contempt allegations lacked specific examples of how any of the accused news companies or journalists actually breached the gag order when they never mentioned Pell or the crimes for which he was convicted.

The accused include Australia’s two biggest newspaper companies, Rupert Murdoch’s Nationwide News and the former Fairfax group now owned by broadcaster Nine, as well as leading newspaper editors and reporters.

Judge John Dixon agreed that prosecutors had not provided sufficient detail of the charges against each news organisation and journalist, asking “does this involve one trial or 36 trials, or something in between?”.

He ordered prosecutors to provide detailed statements of claim to the accused and set a new hearing for June 26.

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African News

Three Geeks Rescue a 50-Year-Old IBM 360 Mainframe From an Abandoned Building

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In late April of 2019 Slashdot reader Adam Bradley and engineer Chris Blackburn were “sitting in a pub on a Monday night when Chris happened across a somewhat unusual eBay listing…”

They eventually submitted the winning bid for an IBM 360 Model 20 mainframe — €3,710 (about $4,141 USD) — and proceeded to pick it up from an abandoned building “in the backstreets of Nuremberg, Germany.” (Where they tackled several issues with a tiny door that hadn’t been opened since the 1970s.) By day Adam is a railway software engineer, but he’s also been involved in computer history for over a decade at The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley, England.

Along with engineer Peter Vaughan, the three are now blogging “the saga that unfurled…and how we eventually tackled the problems we discovered.” But after much beer, whisky, and Weiner Schnitzel, Adam assures us the story ends with a victory:
The machine will shortly be headed to the UK for a full restoration to working order. We’re planning to blog the entire process and hope some of you might be interested in reading more about it.

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The hidden lives of ‘housegirls’ in Kenya

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In Uganda, young women are leaving their homes to try and find jobs as domestic workers, but for some their new lives can lead to mistreatment and abuse.

A charity in Kenya is calling for the introduction of laws to protect domestic workers, commonly referred to as housegirls, to ensure their safety.

For BBC Africa Eye, reporter Nancy Kacungira has been investigating why young women living near Uganda’s border are leaving their villages to find work in Kenya.

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U.S. ambassador to China to make first visit to Tibet since 2013: report

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad was due to begin visiting Tibet on Sunday for official meetings and visits to religious and cultural sites, according to a news report on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks at an event to celebrate the re-introduction of American beef imports to China in Beijing, China June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

Branstad was scheduled to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, a historic region of Tibet known to Tibetans as Amdo, from Sunday to Saturday, Radio Free Asia said in a report.

The State Department did not immediately comment on the story.

Radio Free Asia said it would be the first visit to Tibet by a U.S. official since the U.S. Congress approved a law in December that requires the United States to deny visas to Chinese officials in charge of implementing policies that restrict access to Tibet for foreigners. The U.S. government is required to begin denying visas by the end of this year.

In December, China denounced the United States for passing the law, saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing “serious harm” to their relations.

Since then, tensions have been running high between the two countries over trade. China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course.

On Saturday, China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that recent U.S. words and actions had harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and that Washington should show restraint.

While the Trump administration has taken a tough stance towards China on trade and highlighted security rivalry with Beijing, the administration has so far not acted on congressional calls for it to impose sanctions on China’s former Communist Party chief in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, for the treatment of minority Muslims in Xinjiang province, where he is currently party chief. 

A State Department report in March said Chen had replicated in Xinjiang, policies similar to those credited with reducing opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet.

Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

Reporting by Nandita Bose and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler

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