Friday, July 04, 2008

EVENT: Launch of latest edition of anti-terror laws guidebook ...

I received the following e-mail from the good folks at AMCRAN ...

Dear friends,

You are warmly invited to the third edition launch of the publication series Anti-Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You.

This series of publications is designed to educate the community on their rights and responsibilities under Australia's counter-terrorism laws. It is presented in four languages: English, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, and Urdu. The third edition covers new areas of law introduced since the first edition in 2004, including the association offence, sedition, preventative detention and control orders. This publication is essential reading, and provides a concise, simple, yet thorough coverage of the laws that all Australians should be aware of and understand.

The booklets will be distributed at no cost at the launch, and will also be available from AMCRAN's website ( in all four languages after the launch.

This project would not have been possible without the generous funding support of the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, the UTS Law Faculty and UTS Students Association.

When: Thursday
17 July 2008
Time: 10 am – 12 pm
Where: Lansdowne Room, Bankstown Town Hall, Cnr Chapel & Rickard Rds,

Speakers include:

Mr Peter Russo, Defence lawyer of Dr. Mohamed Haneef
Dr Zachariah Matthews, President, Australian Islamic Mission; Board Member, AMCRAN
Ms Marika Dias, Solicitor, Convenor of Anti-Terrorism Laws Working Group, Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) Inc.
Mr Geoff Mulherin, Director, Law and Justice Foundation

RSVP by Friday 11 July 2008 essential:

For more information please contact Ayishah Ansari, Legal Convenor NSW, at

We look forward to seeing you at the launch.

Yours sincerely,

Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN)
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network
PO Box 3610Bankstown NSW 2200
Tel: (02) 9708 0009
Fax: (02) 9708 0008

Here is the actual invitation card (click on it to view enlarged version) ...

CRIKEY: Tabloid journalists and the presumption of innocence

OK, I'm now going to try to make this blog a little more active. So I'll start with this entry published in Crikey today ...

Tabloid journalists and lawyers have a strange relationship. Tabloid journos often have little regard for the legal rights, privacy, presumption of innocence or reputation of (especially accused) persons they report on. So I found it quite ironic when a tabloid journo threatened me some years back with a defamation suit. S/he was unhappy with my description of his/her/its ridiculous reporting of a chap s/he claimed was a terrorist.

The chap was actually accused of keeping bomb-making materials in his house. The police had already ruled out terrorism-related charges. But for the journo reporting the incident, the accused was a Muslim who had framed Arabic calligraphy on his walls and a Koran and some religious books in his bookshelf.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that some journos are quick to see accused deprived of their rights, without realising that their hysterical reporting threatens the rights of all of us. Journos included.

Rights that people have fought and died to defend over the centuries. Like the presumption of innocence, and the right to refuse to be interviewed by police. These rights form a key plank in our criminal justice system. In a liberal democracy, these rights form an important element of "The Rule of Law".

So when Ben Fordham accosted Belinda Neal and asked questions like "What have you got to hide?", he effectively suggested Neal’s exercise of a basic legal right was illegitimate. He basically said she must talk, if not to the police then to viewers of A Current Affair.

Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say Fordham or one of his camera crew were the subject of a police investigation for potentially assaulting Neal (as I hope they are), what would Fordham say if Neal suggested that he and/or his crew must submit to a police interview?

My guess is Fordham would cry foul and self-righteously claim political interference in the criminal justice system. Fordham might even instruct his lawyers to express their disgust at this political interference, both before the magistrate and the cameras.

Populist journos and politicians are crying foul over one Queensland judge’s decision to release convicted pedophile Dennis Ferguson after finding that media saturation had made it impossible for a jury to deal with the facts of Ferguson’s impending charges in a "dispassionate" manner, despite the weakness of the Crown’s case.

Instead of blasting the judge, tabloid journos and shock jocks need to consider how their own conduct is compromising our criminal justice system. These same shock jocks should ask themselves what would happen if they were accused of pedophilia or some other criminal offence. They should understand that even accused persons deserve human rights. After all, until they are convicted, they are innocent.

Tabloid media needs to understand the meaning of innocence. And before anyone accuses me of sounding like a typical criminal defence lawyer, allow me to disclose that my area of practice is employment and workplace relations law.

Copyright 2008 Irfan Yusuf