Forever (or never) in the spotlight? Publication and Dissemination of Information

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Rupert Murdoch’s power and influence will forever mean that his life and the happenings within his family are always in the media spotlight. Unfortunately for Murdoch, the last several weeks has seen both newspapers and blogs run with the story of his ending marriage to Wendi Dang.

But what of his young children?  The burdens of their father’s celebrity may fall most heavily upon them.

As the scion of an international media empire, Murdoch has been subject to robust criticism for the invasive actions of his media publications, specifically News of the World and The Sun. Therefore; it is unlikely that he will credibly call for respect to his privacy in the wake of the divorce announcement.

Fortunately, in Australia, the Family Law Act has stringent rules prohibiting the publication and dissemination of identifying information of those involved in family law proceedings.  While we may hear of celebrity unions ending, the detail of what goes on in Court and what is stated in their evidence generally remains private to those directly involved.  The importance of shielding children from the consequences of their parents’ dispute and conflict is particularly important.

Most of the time, these well-known and respected prohibitions against publication are sufficient.  While generally, family law proceedings occur in an open Court (meaning that adult members of the public may be present during the case), publication or dissemination of information about the proceedings is not permitted.  Sometimes, however, the rules are bent or occasionally ignored.  I admit to continuing disquiet about the reporting surrounding the “Italian girls” Hague Convention case. As progressively more and more information was published and broadcast, it lead ultimately to the identification of the family and the children at the centre of the case.

For the protections provided in the Family Law Act to continue to have protective effect and to act as a real protection to people involved in these difficult and intensely personal cases, serious breaches of this kind must be prosecuted.

For the Deng-Murdoch children, one hopes that their parents have already resolved the particulars of their future care arrangements and to shield them from the continuing burden of this very public scrutiny.  But as news surfaces of the high-profile celebrity family lawyers engaged by each party, the prospects of a quiet and swift settlement may be dimming.

Di Simpson is a Director at Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists, 18 Kendall Lane, New Acton, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600.

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