Ur­gent call to fix law af­ter Hockey win

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

THE Aus­tralian Press Coun­cil has called for ur­gent re­form of defama­tion laws to stop politi­cians us­ing them to curb in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism and soothe hurt feel­ings.

Chair­man David Weis­brot is­sued a state­ment in the wake of the $ 200,000 pay­out awarded to Trea­surer Joe Hockey on Tues­day af­ter a court found Fair­fax Media had de­famed him on a poster and in tweets claim­ing he was “for sale”.

Prof Weis­brot said le­gal ac­tion should be the last re­sort, but was all too of­ten the first.

“Us­ing the court sys­tem to as­sign a dol­lar value to bruised feel­ings is a crude way of achiev­ing the same out­come,” he said.

Prof Weis­brot vol­un­teered the Press Coun­cil to lead a re­form process and said the UK and US had bet­ter mod­els for the pro­tec­tion of free speech and the role of the press.

“The cur­rent law se­ri­ously in­hibits in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing and ro­bust po­lit­i­cal de­bate,” he said.

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