Queensland journalists who refuse to reveal their confidential sources would be protected from prosecution under new laws being investigated by the state government.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman is starting consultation on proposed shield laws after coming under criticism from the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance last week.
“There’s been a lot of media attention this week about shield laws as they should be because these are the laws that allow journalists to claim legal privilege to protect confidential sources,” she told parliament on Wednesday
“We made a commitment to consult on these complex laws and it’s crucial we get this right.
“Shield laws are important to the media but they’re also incredibly important to the Queensland public. They are critical in protecting Queenslanders.
“We know journalists should not be going to jail for doing their job and Queenslanders need to be protected if they come forward with important information.”
Ms Fentiman said the justice department would review Queensland case law and shield laws in other jurisdictions to create a legal framework.
MEAA media director Adam Portelli last week criticised the government for delaying the laws, which were promised in August, as Queensland is the last state do so.
He said the case of the journalist, who is unable to be identified for legal reasons, who is currently before the courts for not revealing a source highlights the problem.
“While other states and territories have introduced a shield law, Queensland has been a laggard,” Mr Portelli said at the time.
“The last conviction for refusing to name a source was 14 years ago, but now a case could see a journalist convicted and fined or imprisoned because the Queensland government has yet to deliver on an election promise.
“It’s critical that current Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman acts swiftly. Public interest journalism must not be criminalised. Queensland’s reputation is at stake here.”
Mr Portelli says the MEAA wants to ensure the laws in Queensland are strong enough to deter plaintiffs from being attracted to bring cases against journalists in the state.
He said the MEAA had been campaigning for a national shield law to be modelled on the uniform national defamation law
The shield law proposal is a turnaround for the Queensland government, which controversially proposed a gag law on journalists back in August before withdrawing it within 24 hours.
Under that proposal, journalists who reported corruption allegations made to the Crime and Corruption Commission during election periods would have faced up to six-months jail or a fine.