Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:


Yesterday, the former Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun editor Alan Howe was found guilty of publishing the identity of a child involved in a Children’s Court case. So how could Howe really believe he’s the victim of “tensions” between judges and the media?

This morning Howe told ABC Radio presenter Jon Faine that he’s considering whether to appeal his conviction over his paper’s page one splash – “Divorced by my son: Teen may never see mum again” – published a couple of years ago, arguing that an increasingly interventionist judiciary is inhibiting the freedom of the press.

“Every suppression… order, there didn’t used to be that many,” Howe told Faine. “Now on a Friday afternoon my fax could whir into action and I could get half a dozen. In fact there were attempts to have part of this trial suppressed. There are lots of points of friction between the judiciary and the media about what can and can’t be reported… you know there’s a constant tension between the two camps about what can and can’t be reported. What’s deemed to be material that can’t be reported might get us into legal strife.”

What a beat-up merchant. This case has absolutely nothing to do with supressing important facts – the source of Howe’s annoyance is that the judiciary has encroached on what he sees as his inalienable right as a Murdoch tabloid editor to publish whatever he likes. The law is clear and completely justified – you don’t name parties to Children’s Court proceedings.

In deciding to run a story about a 14-year-old boy who “divorced” his parents, Howe (and Channel Seven news director Steve Carey, who picked up the story and was also found guilty) broke the law. Inconveniently, Australian law doesn’t protect the rights of Murdoch editors to ape the London Sun’s Larry Lamb and Kelvin MacKenzie in thumbing their noses at anyone who gets in their way. Instead, the law protects children from public exposure and humiliation.

Only someone as thoroughly indoctrinated in News Limited culture as Howe could see this as an attempt to curtail the freedom of the press. And only the most gullible hack could believe him.