The Age‘s editor-in-chief, Paul Ramadge, defended the newspaper’s access of the “ALP electoral database in the lead-up to the 2010 state election,” the Australian reported.
See here The Age’s November 23, 2010 article: “Revealed: How the ALP keeps secret files on voters.” The article reported that “The ALP has secretly recorded the personal details of tens of thousands of Victorians – including sensitive health and financial information – in a database being accessed by campaign workers.”
Because of the article, in December, the Australian police searched The Age’s offices to find out if The Age “illegally tapped” the database for its report. According to the Canberra Times, the police had a “warrant to search electronic and hard-copy files” of three reporters, but The Age’s Ramadge argued in its injunction call that if the police took its journalists’ computers, anonymous sources and “highly confidential information” could be revealed. The Age‘s injunction prevented “police seizing equipment, believed to include computers,” the Herald Sun reported at the time. (Also, see here a December 15 press release from The Age’s parent company, Fairfax Media, about the database reporting in light of the search warrant.)
The Age’s report also prompted attention in a Parliamentary report by the the Victorian Electoral Matters Committee slated to be published next month, according to the Australian.
Electoral Matters Committee executive officer Mark Roberts told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the report, which “mostly deals with the conduct of the 2010 Victorian state election” will be published May 24. He noted that “Members of the Committee believe that all Victorians should be able to have confidence that details about their electoral enrolment, and their personal information, are protected from misuse. Any allegations of hacking of a political party’s electoral database are of concern to the Committee.” According to Roberts, “only one component” of the report is about “the ALP’s electoral database issue.”
The Age’s Ramadge defended the newspaper’s actions in a letter last year to the committee, according to the Australian.
Ramadge said the newspaper gained access to the database through a whistleblower and that it did so legally and in the public interest. Ramadge reportedly wrote to the committee that “The Age was provided access to the the database” and the newspaper reported on “carefully and precisely…without breaching people’s privacy.” Further, Ramadge argued that the newspaper has “expressed our grave concerns over the risk that our sources for the report may be identified.”
We have also written to The Age for comment and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 5/21/2012 12:10 PM EST: Added information about the Parliamentary report.