Dealing with the media

Will the media be interested in my case?

It is not always possible to know what level of media attention a case will attract. 

Usually the media is interested in reporting on allegations of fraud, drug smuggling, terrorism and child exploitation offences. But any case can be of interest, depending on where the offences happened and who is involved, or if there is not much other news around on the day you appear.

There are rules about what the media can and can’t report on during a trial or other type of court hearing. If you are approached by the media to speak about the case you’re appearing in, don’t say anything until you have spoken with the prosecutor to let them know you’ve been approached.

Will the media contact me?

Sometimes the media may want to ask you questions. Usually they will approach you outside the court when you are arriving or leaving, but they may also contact you at your house or over the phone.

The CDPP will never give the media your contact details.

Remember: We are always available to provide media advice if you need it.

Do I have to speak to the media?

If you are a witness, the CDPP strongly recommends that you avoid talking to the media until after the case has finished. This is to protect the case, and your evidence, from being compromised or challenged by anything you say outside the court.

You don’t have to speak to the media at any time, either before, after or during the case you are involved in. If you have spoken to the media before, you don’t have to keep giving interviews or feel that you have to make any other comments.

  • The CDPP has a dedicated media team that handles all media enquiries. You can refer journalists to the team if you don’t want to answer questions.
  • If you do want to speak to the media, we recommend you discuss this with us first so we can give you advice about anything that may affect the case.
  • If you are not a witness in a case, you can talk to the media at any time unless there is a suppression order in place, or the court has ordered you not to.

More information

What rights do I have when dealing with the media?

You have the right to:

  • refuse to speak with all media representatives
  • hold a general press conference
  • choose to speak with a particular journalist or media outlet
  • refuse to speak with a particular journalist or media outlet
  • decline an interview, regardless of whether or not you have previously granted interviews
  • decline requests on behalf of your children or children you are guardian for
Can the media film me or a member of my family?

Courts do not allow media to film or photograph inside the courthouse.

However, media will often wait outside the court as there are no restrictions on filming or photography in public spaces. This means you may be filmed as you walk into or out of the court building.

The media should not block your access, and you are not obliged to say anything to journalists if they are asking you questions.

  • A good strategy is to walk quickly, without rushing, and to keep your eyes looking in the direction you are going. Don’t stop and don’t say anything, even if the questions seem to be unfair or misleading.
Can I complain about media coverage?

Journalists are bound by a Code of Ethics, which is also used to determine whether complaints are upheld. If you feel you have been unfairly treated by a media outlet or a particular journalist, you have the right to make a complaint.  

In the first instance, you should raise your complaint directly with the media outlet, in writing. You can do this via the company’s contact form on its website, or by writing a letter. Try to include the section of the Code of Ethics you think has been breached, and make sure you include the article or time and date of the broadcast item you are referring to.

You may wish to write a Letter to the Editor if your complaint is about factually incorrect information.

If you don’t think your complaint is treated fairly, you can raise the issue with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). This is a government authority responsible for regulating the media and ensuring journalists abide by the rules.

Regardless of which avenue you decide to take, you should make your complaint as soon as you can after the reporting and include:

  • your name
  • your contact details (so they can respond)
  • name of the broadcaster (including the program title), publisher or website you are complaining about and the author
  • date the article was broadcast or published
  • the reason for your complaint, and details about why you are concerned about the article.

Make sure you keep copies of all the materials that make up your complaint and keep a record of the date you make it.

Tips for dealing with the media
  • When you have answered a question, stay silent and wait for the next question. Often journalists will not speak in the hope of prompting you to say something else.
  • Always have an exit strategy in place before any interview or a press conference.
  • Keep calm, journalists will often try to provoke you to try to get a more interesting response.
  • Don’t answer questions you are not prepared or willing to answer just to please the media.
  • Remember that everything you say can be reported. It is safest to assume that you are always ‘on the record’.
  • Make sure you know who the journalist is and which media outlet they represent. If it’s necessary, ask them to identify themselves again. You can ask the journalist for their card or name and phone number to help you keep a record of the information.
  • Make sure you understand the question being asked, and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it if you are not sure.
  • Before the interview begins, make sure you understand the purpose of the interview, the type of article being written, and how the journalist intends to use your comments.
  • Be polite, but firm, in seeking corrections.

Remember: When you talk to the media, the story may be different to what you were expecting. Journalists may also use information you provided in several different stories or in ways you don’t like. This is not necessarily grounds for complaint, but it helps if you try to understand exactly what is intended before you speak to a journalist.