Any journalist knows that information under suppression order cannot be published; it’s a back-to-basics, journalism 101 kind of thing. It took Who Magazine to remind us all that nothing should be taken for granted after it was accused of breaching a suppression order on an upcoming trial involving murdered underworld figure Carl Williams.

The DPP has ordered an investigation over the magazine’s conduct that could amount to a breach of suppression orders and contempt of court. On Tuesday the court ordered all copies of the magazine to be taken off the shelves. Thousands of magazines pulped; housewives everywhere left without their weekly dose of gossip.

Bloggers have since pointed out that the information in Who’s article “Death of a gangster” could have been easily deduced from other legally published documents and, with Williams now dead, no trial can be compromised. Which matters little when it comes to legislation regulating what media outlets can or can’t publish. What it all boils down to is relatively simple: if there is a suppression in place, it is the publisher’s duty to follow the court’s order. Full stop.

So why did Pacific Magazines, publishing arm of the Seven Network and owners of Who, slip in such an unfashionable style? At the moment Who is buried behind a wall of silence — director of corporate communications Hannah Devereux declined to comment on the incident to Crikey, saying only: “Due to a potential legal issue, retailers in Victoria were instructed on Tuesday 27th April to remove issue 17 of Who from sale.”

Despite the fact that retailers were instructed to remove the current publication of Who from their shelves, The Age reported purchasing copies of the magazine on Wednesday.

The breach may have been caused by a lack of attention, which inevitably calls into question the dangers involved in tight deadlines. Alternatively, the name was published in an effort to fill the public’s insatiable desire for details involving criminal figures and Underbelly-style murders.

Either way, Who should have done its homework and prevent such slip from occurring. For that, it wins a deserving Wankley.

Peter Fray

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