CPJ alarmed by contempt charges against two journalists

New York, October 13, 2005 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by contempt of court charges filed against two reporters for the Melbourne-based Herald Sun who refused to divulge the source for a report on government plans to cut war veteran benefits.

Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey could face jail if convicted. The chief judge of the County Court in the state of Victoria ordered them to appear before him next month, according to news reports on Thursday.

They refused to obey the judge’s order to testify in the prosecution of a civil servant charged with leaking classified information. They cited their duty as journalists to protect the identity of sources.

Their February 2004 article titled “Cabinet’s $500m rebuff revealed” quoted a leaked document.

“The prosecution of these journalists sends a disturbing message that the government is willing to raise the threat of imprisonment to compel journalists to disclose their confidential sources,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Journalists’ independence depends on their ability to gather news that officials want to keep secret. Charges against McManus and Harvey should be dropped.”