Your honour, here’s why journalists matter
COURT proceedings should be subject to public and professional scrutiny - so it has been famously said in the High Court of Australia.
And only in exceptional circumstances should it be otherwise.
But this week, media outlets were excluded from hearings involving a 26-year-old man charged with abducting a little girl from a shopping centre, indecently assaulting her, and driving her back - on the very broad grounds of "public morality".
In fact, Magistrate Trevor Morgan was not even willing to let the media make an application to oppose his decision, saying, oddly, that they had no "standing" to do so.
Media outlets make these applications regularly. It is done formally, usually with costly legal representation. And we do it because there are few things more important than understanding the harsh realities of the society we live in. Forewarned is forearmed.
"What puts you in a different category to a man on the street who wants to come in…? Or a person who is a blogger and has a following of 75 million people? Why can't that person come in and make submissions?" he asked.
This is the difference: media outlets like this one are accredited through the courts.
The journalists who regularly cover court proceedings in Queensland are professional and knowledgeable. They are trained in what they can and can't report.
They are aware, for example, that they must not reveal the identity of a child who is a victim of a crime. They are aware that a person who is the victim of a sexual assault cannot be identified.
They are aware of what facts can and cannot be published when they have charges pending.
Media outlets are aware that they are responsible for ensuring they provide fair and accurate reports of court proceedings and those reports are subjected to legal scrutiny before being published.
They are more than aware that any person accused of a crime is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
When these rules are broken, or when mistakes are made, those media outlets are held to account.
The man on the street does not have formal accreditation or training. Neither does a blogger.
Our role is an important one. We sit in court each day so you, the public, can be kept informed.
We are your eyes and ears. We will tell you when someone is found guilty and when they walk free. We will tell you of justice and injustice.
And as for the broad term of "public morality" - what does this mean?
Should people be kept in the dark about the dangers that exist in our society because they are difficult to hear? Because there may be some - hypothetical - public reaction?
Should the case of toddler Mason Lee have been kept secret? Schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer?
Should parents not know that - however unlikely - there is a chance their child might be taken from a place as public as a shopping centre, while their back is turned, for just a moment?