Journalist jailed for protecting source


Journalist jailed for protecting source

By Bill Mason

BRISBANE — Former Courier-Mail journalist Joe Budd was released from Boggo Road Prison on March 26. He had served a week of a 14-day sentence for "contempt of court" after refusing to reveal a confidential source during a libel trial in the Supreme Court here.

Widespread public protest greeted the jailing of Budd by Judge Dowsett, during a hearing into a defamation action against the Courier-Mail arising out of an article on the background to the Toowoomba "police riot" which occurred during a police football carnival in 1989.

The article covered the court sequel to the carnival, in which nine officers were charged but none convicted.

Police prosecutor John Copley alleged his career would suffer from criticisms made of his performance, which allegedly implied collusion and a cover-up.

Up to 200 journalists and supporters of Budd rallied in Roma Street Forum on March 21, condemning the jailing as an infringement of civil liberties and calling for Budd's immediate release. Investigative journalist Bob Bottom told the rally that Joe Budd had proved that journalists could be trusted to protect their informants.

"If people didn't feel they could divulge information about corruption to journalists without being protected, then we wouldn't have things such as the Fitzgerald inquiry", Bottom said.

The state government is under strong pressure to bring forward legislation to protect the right of journalists to safeguard the confidentiality of their sources.