The swearing in of Justice Kiefel as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia was major news throughout Australia, and rightly so. But, as Professor Adrienne Stone pointed out on twitter, the Australian Financial Review fluffed its reporting:
— Adrienne Stone (@stone_adrienne) January 31, 2017
The photo the Fin used was from Kiefel J’s swearing in as a High Court judge in 2007. On Monday, Kiefel CJ was sworn in by the High Court’s next most senior judge, Bell J, arguably adding to the groundbreaking nature of the event from a gender perspective.
Without letting Fairfax off the hook, I have noticed that there don’t seem to be any photos online of Bell J swearing in Kiefel CJ anywhere.That is not (it seems) for legal reasons. The Court’s website states:
Photographs may not be taken in any sitting courtroom without the permission of the Justices of the Court. Permission may be granted on a case-by-case basis in exceptional circumstances, such as when a Justice retires and another is sworn in at a ceremonial sitting.
Channel 7 tweeted video footage of the swearing in, while other press ran a photo of Kiefel CJ on the bench with Bell J and Gageler J on either side, with the caption ‘Chief Justice Susan Kiefel (C) was sworn in by fellow female female justice Virginia Bell (L)’, attributed to AAP photographer Mick Tsikas. Possible explanations of the absence of photos include some sort of very specific limit imposed by the justices, a failure by journalists to take the photo at that particular moment or the media’s lack of interest in using such a photo. Either way, the apparent absence of such timely photos of a public event is unfortunate and (to my mind) inexplicable.
The problem is likely to be a short-term one, as the High Court typically films such events and places them on its website. Usually, those audio-visual records appear within a day of an event. However, for whatever reason, the recordings of the swearings-in of Kiefel CJ and Edelman J have (at the time of writing, early Wednesday morning) not yet appeared and are simply described as ‘in production’. (The written transcripts aren’t yet available either.) The combination of the unexplained absence of media photographs of the event and the somewhat delayed availability of the recordings means that this iconic image was lacking (or, in one case, erroneously substituted) in the contemporaneous reporting of a significant event in the life of the High Court.