Report – By Cedric Patjole in Port Moresby
The publisher of the Post-Courier newspaper, South Pacific Post Ltd (SPP), and veteran journalist Todagia Kelola, have been found guilty of contempt and will be punished by the National Court later this month.
This ruling was read out by Justice David Cannings yesterday when handing down the court’s ruling on the defendants’ early pleading of “not guilty” to contempt charges against them.
SPP and Kelola were charged with contempt following a newspaper article published on March 24 revealing the identities of six people at the Asylum Seeker Centre in Manus.
That defied an order by Cannings in the court’s human rights inquiry inspection of the centre last month, that all identities be “frosted’’ or published in a way that prevented the transferees and staff of the centre being identified.
An article by the Malaysian-owned The National newspaper on the same day also defied the order as a security officer was revealed in its article. Publisher Pacific Star Ltd, and journalist Charles Moi, were also charged with contempt.
Both defendants, however, pleaded guilty to the charge and apologised and informed the court that it was not an intentional defiance of the order.
SPP and Kelola instead decided to fight the charge and presented their arguments.
In the proceedings, Justice Cannings looked at three factors before making a decision on the verdict.
The questions asked were: Was there a failure to comply? Who failed to comply? And was it deliberate?
When reading his verdict, Cannings found Kelola to have deliberately failed to do what was necessary, to comply with the order, and found him guilty of contempt.
He said it was within the physical power of the first defendant to ensure that the order was complied with. He failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent publication of un-frosted images of transferees, it was ruled.
For SPP, Cannings said it could not escape criminal responsibility by saying that its directors and other officers did not know of the order. That is irrelevant. Two of its employees knew of the order and what the order required.
He said the second defendant was bound by their conduct, including their negligent acts or omissions and must be regarded as having deliberately failed to comply with the order.
He said the SPP was also guilty of contempt, as charged.
Punishment for both defendants will be made on May 29.
Meanwhile, Justice Cannings will hand down penalties on Pacific Star Ltd and journalist, Charles Moi, today.
Source: Pacific Media Watch 8588