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Australian judge issues gag order in high-profile case

December 15, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — A verdict has been handed down in a high-profile criminal trial in Australia that a judge has ordered news organizations not to report on publicly.

Critics have called the judge’s order overly sweeping and restrictive of press freedoms, and victims’ rights groups have criticized the fact that the proceedings have so far been kept from public oversight or view.

Media organizations based in Australia have abided by the court’s order, but some have run headlines indirectly alluding to the case and criticizing the fact that they are prohibited from reporting on it.

Some news organizations that have no presence in Australia, and thus face no immediate legal threat to staff, have reported on the case and verdict. Reports also have circulated online and in social media.

The Associated Press maintains a bureau and has journalists in Australia, and has therefore reacted accordingly.

The judge’s order currently prohibits any news organizations that publish inside Australia from reporting on the case. It also prohibits any news organization from publishing a report outside Australia that could be viewed online by anyone living in Australia.

Australian law allows judges to issue suppression orders to prevent news coverage of trials in the interest of ensuring a fair trial for defendants. Media groups have said such total gag orders are too broad of a way to ensure fair trials and overly restrict the public’s right to know.

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