Chilling Effect: The law, lawyers, journalists, and editorial processes

Presented by: Dr Richard Murray

Date: Friday 27 August 2021
Time: 12–1pm
Location: Online via Zoom 


This paper seeks to make sense of the role of the law and lawyers in editorial processes in Australia. Orthodox views within journalism studies vastly overestimate the role of journalists and journalist agency within editorial processes. This comes at the cost of accurate and informed analysis into the pressure facing journalism and where those pressures come from. Combining expert legal analysis and interviews with leading journalists, editors and media lawyers, The Chilling Effect reveals the scope of the problem, and reveals the multi-step process by which law stifles free speech in the form of public interest journalism. This new understanding of the chilling effect as a process, points to towards key reforms capable of enhancing democracy, freedom and security. Based on more than one hundred hours of interviews with leading editorial staff, legal counsel and barristers from Australian news organisations and law firms, this paper breaks down the laws that slow, and sometimes cripple, editorial processes in Australia. It also sheds light on the complex interaction between journalists, legal counsel, and the law in a deeply disrupted media environment, and what this means to the public interest, the right to know, and Australian democracy. The presenters have been able to draw on a vast network of leading figures in Australian journalism and law to offer the first authoritative analysis of the chilling effect in Australia journalism. These include media lawyers from Banki Haddock Fiora, Gilbert and Tobin, and MinterEllison as well as journalists, editorial figures and legal counsel from the ABC, SBS, News Corp, Nine Entertainment (former Fairfax), and The Guardian Australia. A book under the working title Chilling Effect: Australian journalism, lawyers and the law is due out through UNSW Press at the end 2022.


Richard Murray is a lecturer in journalism in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland. His current research focuses on editorial processes in journalism, regional journalism in Australia, trauma and reporting sexual violence, and journalism practice.


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 11 March

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Tuning In with the Stethoscope in the Nineteenth CenturyDr Melissa Dickson (University of Birmingham)

Friday, 25 March


Early Adventures in Australian Actor Training

Dr Chris Hay

Friday, 8 April

Online via Zoom

Invention and reinvention in the landscape symbolism of Joachim PatinirMichael Levy

Friday, 29 April

Online via Zoom

Negotiating balance of cultures among Chinese Australians to facilitate ageing well

A/Prof Shuang Liu

Friday, 13 May


Redefining crisis in museums: insider’s perspectives on digital engagement

Dr Caroline Wilson-Barnao, Craig Middleton (National Museum of Australia), and Lisa Enright

Friday, 3 June

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

A journey through the Australian environmental movement ecosystem

Dr Robyn Gulliver

Friday, 10 June

Online via Zoom

TBADr Alex Bevan