Today’s anonymous editorial in The Herald makes for interesting reading:
Dirty Politics passes public interest test
Blogger Cameron Slater and author Nicky Hager …
How I hate seeing these two compared in any way!
… have much in common, even beyond the emails one wrote and the other obtained, possibly illegally, now the Supreme Court has ruled computer files are property.
Both claim to be journalists, and both have found their work subject to the scrutiny of the High Court.
The difference being that Hager really is a journalist, one of the best we have.
Both have cited a clause of the Evidence Act as a shield to protect their sources. In both cases, the sources provided a tranche of emails on which the reporting was based.
Police have accepted Hager is a journalist. In Slater’s case, Justice Asher also found he was a journalist but focused on the work he produced.
He found a journalist’s protection of sources should “promote the free flow of information, a vital component of any democracy”, adding, “This factor would appear to have particular relevance where the facts and opinion that are the subject of the communications are of public interest and significance.” … There is no magic shield called journalism behind which journalists can hide their sources. The only shield available is that of justice, and a wider public interest, as highlighted by Justice Asher.
Slater’s was a defamation case. Hager’s is a criminal investigation. Justice Asher found Slater’s work – at least in relation to the case before the court – did not meet the test of public interest. Did Dirty Politics serve the “public interest”?
Putting aside political allegiances, the book did shine a light on aspects of the modern political world which had previously been in shadow. As a result, the public is better informed about the way our democracy operates. … since his book served a public interest, free speech should prevail.
The right conclusion in the end – Hager’s Dirty Politics served a genuine public interest, and should be legally protected as such.