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Media Ethics, Law and Accountability



Public, Staff, Students, Alumni, Prospective Postgraduates, Prospective Undergraduates, Academics

Speaker: Dr Denis Muller (University of Melbourne)

Series: Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism

Two major issues in Australian media law at the moment are the proposed introduction of a tort of privacy, and the operation of shield laws. This paper will discuss both. A tort of privacy, if enacted, would significantly extend the range of Australia's privacy laws. The tort has been proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission. As part of balancing privacy interests with those of free speech, the Commission has recommended that as one of the elements of the action, a plaintiff would have to prove that his or her interest in privacy outweighed the public interest in disclosure. Hence it becomes a matter for the plaintiff to prove rather than something for the defence to prove. The paper will sketch out the main provisions of the proposed law.

Five jurisdictions in Australia have so-called shield laws for the protection of journalists' confidential sources, and recently the first substantive test case gave some important indicators about how the courts will apply these laws. The paper will report on the judge's reasons and discuss the significance for how effective these shield laws might be.

About the speaker

Denis Muller was born in New Zealand in 1948 and emigrated to Australia in 1969. He was educated at Rosmini College, Auckland, and at the University of Melbourne.

After three years on suburban newspapers in Auckland, he joined The Sydney Morning Herald as a sub-editor in 1969. In 1978 he joined The Times, London, also as a sub-editor, before returning to take up the position of Chief Sub-editor of the Herald in 1980. He subsequently held the positions of Night Editor, News Editor and Assistant Editor (Investigations) at that newspaper, until joining The Age, Melbourne, as Associate Editor in 1986. At both newspapers, his responsibilities including representing the papers as an advocate before the Australian Press Council. From 1984 until he left newspapers in 1993, he worked closely with Irving Saulwick, one of Australia's leading public opinion pollsters, in the management and writing of the Saulwick Poll which was published in The Age as AgePoll and in the Herald as HeraldSurvey.

In 1990 he was accepted as a mature-age student into the Public Policy program at the University of Melbourne. He completed a Postgraduate Diploma in 1992 and a Master's degree in 1994. In 1993 he left The Age to take up a position as Group Manager, Communications, at the Board of Studies, Victoria. In 1995 he established the research consultancy Denis Muller & Associates, and was appointed a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne.

In 2006 he completed a doctoral thesis on media ethics and accountability, and was appointed a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Public Policy, where he has taught in the Public Policy program since 1997. He has also taught research methodology at RMIT University, and teaches defamation law to practising journalists through the Communication Law Centre.

Related papers

Denis Muller and CLJJ PhD student Judith Townend will present their paper, 'The Get Guido clause? A comparative analysis of online news regulation in the UK and Australia' in the media and communications section of the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) conference on 10 September 2014.

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When and where

4.00pm - 6.00pmThursday 11th September 2014

D427 Social Sciences Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom

Contact Details

Centre for Law, Justice & Journalism

City University London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7040 8457

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