Martin Hirst writes from Brisbane:

Journalist and documentary-maker Anne Delaney would probably rather
be working on her latest project than sitting in the Inala magistrate’s
court, facing a possible two year stretch in a Queensland gaol.

But net week the film0maker will defend herself against a charge of
illegally ‘interviewing’ a prisoner in the Wacol women’s prison.

Delaney has been charged under Section 100 of the Queensland
Corrective Services Act, which makes it an offence to “interview” a
prisoner either inside or outside a Queensland gaol.

Ms Delaney
spoke to prisoner Louise McPhee, but did not record the interview or
even take any notes of the conversation. McPhee is in prison for the
manslaughter of her child abut Delaney thinks there may have been a
miscarriage of justice in the case.

After spending a short time
with the prisoner, Delaney was confronted by two police officers and
arrested inside the Wacol facility.

The journalists’ union, the
MEAA, has called on the Queensland DPP and the Director-General of the
prison system to drop the charges. Federal Secretary of the MEAA, Chris
Warren, describes the actions of the Queensland Corrective Services
department as a “death sentence” for democracy if journalists can’t
investigate or reveal information that is clearly in the public
interest.

“Queensland’s recent history highlights that
responsible journalism is a vital weapon against corruption. The
Fitzgerald Inquiry proved that,” said Warren.

So far the
Queensland media seems to be ignoring this story, but the global
clearing house for press freedom, the International Freedom of
Expression Exchange, has put the case on its alert list.

A fundraiser in Sydney last weekend raised over $5000 towards Delaney’s court costs. SMH
journalist David Marr spoke at the gathering, and he told Crikey that
the Corrective Services media policy is designed to censor and control
media access to prisoners. “The policy allows access only if it does
not embarrass the Queensland Government.”

Anne’s case is listed
in the Inala magistrate’s court for hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday
next week. The MEAA is concerned that Section 100 of the Queensland
Corrective Services legislation may be unconstitutional, given several
high-profile cases which ruled there is an implied right of comment on
political matters in the Australian Constitution.

Anne Delaney
has worked for the ABC and SBS and has produced and directed several
films. Now her lawyers have taken the unusual step of notifying all the
state and territory Attorneys General that a possible constitutional
issue it to be raised in the Inala local court, which is more used to
hearing cases of drunk and disorderly.