The ABC is re-editing, and will then restore online its documentary series Revelation, which includes previously unheard details of allegations against Cardinal George Pell the broadcaster has confirmed.
Episode three of the series addressed historic allegations about Pell and aired before he was freed from prison and had his convictions overturned.
The broadcaster responded to the decision of the high court to quash Pell’s conviction by pulling the third episode of the series focusing on the Ballarat diocese from iview and ABC Online.
“In response to the high court’s decision regarding Cardinal George Pell, the ABC has temporarily removed episode three of Revelation from its platforms while updating its content,” a spokesman for the ABC said.
But the ABC is standing by Revelation and all its other programs, podcasts and articles about Pell.
“The ABC has – and will continue to – report accurately and without fear or favour on stories that are in the public interest, including this one,” an ABC spokesman said. “We stand by our reporters and our stories.”
ABC investigative journalist Louise Milligan, who broke stories about abuse in the Catholic church for ABC TV programs 7.30 and Four Corners says her award-winning book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell will not be withdrawn from sale.
“Nothing happens to my book,” Milligan told Guardian Australia. “It speaks for itself.
“I stand by it 100% and so does my publisher [MUP]. I am proud of the journalism in it, which exposed a dark history in the Catholic Church – how a generation of children were let down and continued to be let down when they came forward to tell their stories as adults.
“I am in awe of their bravery. I am thinking of every single one of them and hoping they are OK. They deserved better. They still deserve better.”
Milligan and a host of other journalists who reported on Pell are under attack by News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt and other Pell supporters who claim the ABC colluded with Victoria police to have Pell charged.
In a fresh attack on Milligan on his Sky News program Bolt claimed the book Cardinal “slammed Pell”, was “a real hit job” and that Milligan “led the crusade” against Pell.
The Australian’s columnist Gerard Henderson agreed with Bolt and said there had been a “media pile-on led by the ABC” against Pell.
“Led by Victoria police, in cooperation with the ABC, the whole web of media pile on against George Pell went on for years,” Henderson old Sky News.
Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven also took aim at the alleged campaign by the “Victorian police and the ABC”.
“The coercive power of the state was engaged in a very cosy deal with the national broadcaster,” Craven said on Sky News.
Professor Mark Pearson, a media law expert from Griffith University, says the biggest danger for the media lay in defaming Pell beyond what he had been convicted of.
“The defences of a fair and accurate report of a court case and fair comment upon such a case will normally defend material about any court case until someone has been acquitted,” Pearson told Guardian Australia.
“Once someone has been acquitted any new material would need to be defensible on the grounds of truth which is a very difficult defence to prove because of the need for evidence and the fact that you’d need to prove the truth of the imputations.
“Historical material is normally safe as long as it does not go beyond the material that was presented in the court. Speculative historical material or material to do with other matters may not be defensible.
“And people would need to be very careful, with any criminal case, what they publish once someone has been acquitted of a crime.”
Revelation is a coproduction with In Films for the ABC, financed by Screen Australia with assistance from Screen NSW.