Queensland Shield Law Consultation

PIJI and the Centre for Advancing Journalism prepared a joint submission to the Queensland Government’s 2021 consultation on the introduction of shield laws to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. The submission supported the development of shield laws on the basis that the protection of journalists’ sources is a key component of the production of public interest journalism.

Submission on Introducing a journalists’ privilege into Queensland law
July 2021
Consultation Background and Key Documents

Queensland Shield Law Consultation

Prior to its consultation on shield laws, Queensland was the only Australian jurisdiction with no form of protection that journalists could rely on in court to protect anonymous sources. In June 2021, the Queensland government sought evidence of best practices in the implementation of shield laws from academics, media, legal experts, and other states and territories.

The Queensland State Government introduced shield laws into Parliament in November 2021.

Key Documents

Submission on Introducing a journalists’ privilege into Queensland law, Centre for Advancing Journalism and Public Interest Journalism Initiative, July 2021

Shielding confidential sources: Balancing the public’s right to know and the court’s need to know discussion paper, Queensland Government, Department of Justice and AttorneyGeneral, June 2021

Consideration of shield laws, Queensland Government, Department of Justice and AttorneyGeneral, November 2021

Submission Recommendations
PIJI and the Centre for Advancing Journalism’s joint Submission on Introducing a journalists’ privilege into Queensland law, strongly supported the introduction of a shield law in Queensland. Protecting sources is a key component of the production of public interest journalism; without both, citizens’ ability to engage in public debate and informed decision-making is impaired.
The submission additionally made the following recommendations, drawing on our joint knowledge of journalistic practice and of how shield laws have functioned in other jurisdictions:
  • The definition of a ‘journalist’, in determining who can access the protection, is critical. The existing definition used in Commonwealth and ACT shield laws is most appropriate, with the caveat that it should apply to all people within the news production process – editors, camera operators, technicians and others who may have legitimate need to use it.
  • Shield laws should apply in any setting where a journalist can be compelled to provide evidence that could identify a confidential source. This includes trial proceedings, preliminary proceedings, tribunals, police investigations, coronial inquests and others.
  • A shield should only be overridden in rare and exceptional circumstances, with consideration of factors such as the harm that a source might face if their identity were revealed; the future ability of journalists to receive information from sources; the public interest and whether the relevant evidence could be obtained in another manner.
Project Details

This submission was developed jointly by the staff at the Public Interest Journalism Initiative and the Centre for Advancing Journalism:

PIJI’s Policy Working Group approved this submission.

Within the Centre for Advancing Journalism, this joint submission was reviewed and approved by:

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