Protesters Rally to Defend ABC’s Confidential Sources Amid Police Demands

harsha sharma News 27 October 2023 2 Mins Read
ABC in hot waters for its sources featuring Disrupt Burrup Hub

Protesters gathered at ABC studios in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth on Thursday in fear of compromising the confidential sources for a recent Four Corners program. This episode of the investigative program, featured Disrupt Burrup Hub as they planned a protest against Woodside Energy’s massive gas project on the Pilbara’s Burrup peninsula (Source: The Guardian).

During the program, ABC’s crew was present when activists were arrested outside the home of Woodside’s chief executive, Meg O’Neill, in Perth. An internal ABC inquiry later cleared the crew of colluding with the protesters or trespassing on O’Neill’s property.

WA police demanded that ABC provide them with all the footage shot for the program, a request that was widely criticized as an “alarming overreach” that undermined press freedom by dozens of organizations. Disrupt Burrup Hub has stated that it understands the ABC will hand over footage to WA police, but the ABC has not confirmed this, and it remains unclear what such footage might contain.

David Anderson, the ABC’s managing director, stated that they “never have and never will” reveal their sources. He mentioned that the broadcaster is in negotiations with the police about what they might provide while still protecting those sources.

Disrupt Burrup Hub’s media adviser, Jesse Noakes, revealed that many people had consented to be filmed for the Four Corners investigation, but none had consented to be filmed for a police investigation. He expressed concern about potential legal consequences, stating, “Should the ABC surrender any Four Corners footage to WA police if any of these people face legal liability or criminal prosecution, that will be entirely on the ABC – I hope the ABC management appreciate the full implications of that.”

Noakes is set to face trial on November 6 for refusing to hand over material. Lawyer Zarah Burgess suggested that the ABC could use a similar defense to Noakes, one of “reasonable excuses.”

The situation has sparked a debate about the balance between press freedom and law enforcement requests for information, with many advocating for the protection of confidential sources and journalistic integrity. The outcome of this case could have broader implications for media organizations and their ability to protect their sources in the future.

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Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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