A recent change to the Queensland Magistrates Courts practice directions means members of the media can now use a personal recording device in the courtroom “to maintain accuracy in the reporting of court proceedings”.
On March 25, 2009, Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Butler issued Practice Direction No. 4 of 2009, Recording Devices in Courtrooms: Magistrates Courts.
Several points in the practice direction make specific allowance for “representatives of news agencies” to record audio for their private use only.
Private audio-recording by representatives of news agencies
9. The recording of court proceedings issued by the State Reporting Bureau is and will remain the authoritative record of proceedings.
10. Media representatives covering the courts will be permitted to make a private audio recording, provided it is done unobtrusively and without interruption to the proceedings. For that purpose, a hand-held recorder may be taken into a courtroom and activated.
11. The purpose of permitting such recording is to maintain accuracy in the reporting of court proceedings. The audio content of the recording may not be broadcast.
12. This direction does not impinge on a Magistrate’s right to revise, subsequently, a judgment delivered ex tempore; or a Magistrate’s right, in a particular case, to prohibit recording, should the Magistrate consider that necessary or desirable.
At some point I should find the part of legislation defining exactly what, or who, qualifies as either a news agency or its representative. For example, would the courts recognise a journalist from an online news outlet like Crikey? If so, does the legislation go further and allow for less established online news providers, or student journalists, or is there a pre-approved list of accredited mainstream media news agencies?
As an experiment in citizen journalism I would be very interested to see how far the “news agency” definition can be stretched, and specifically if it could be taken to include bloggers.