Journalist fights for the right to protect sources
WAN editor-in-chief Bob Cronin, editor of The West Australian Brett McCarthy, journalist Steve Pennells, and WAN general counsel Tony McCarthy arrive at the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for Gina Rinehart yesterday continued the billionaire's attempt to force journalist Steve Pennells and _The West Australian_ to hand over "communications" related to exclusive articles about her legal battles with her children.

Senior counsel David Studdy, for Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd, told the Supreme Court the documents were needed to prove that confidentiality agreements had been breached in a private deed between Mrs Rinehart and three of her children, including son John Hancock.

The allegations have emerged amid a family feud over part of the inheritance from mining magnate Lang Hancock's estate.

Pennells and _The West _are resisting the subpoenas, which are part of an arbitration process based in Sydney, because journalists are ethically bound to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

Mr Studdy told the court that it was "inappropriate in the circumstances" for Pennells and _The West _to object to handing over documents and there was a "legitimate forensic purpose" for the action.

"We do have evidence, we say compelling evidence, that there have been breaches (of the deed)," he said.

He said it was clear from articles in _The West _and a book on Mrs Rinehart that Pennells had interviewed and spoken with Mr Hancock "and the latter has provided information to Mr Pennells".

But lawyer Robert Anderson, for Pennells and West Australian Newspapers, argued the subpoena served on Pennells was oppressive because the documents belonged to his employer and control of the matter was ultimately not his responsibility.

He said Pennells was being forced to choose between breaching agreements of confidentiality with sources and facing penalties for refusing to comply with the court directions.

Justice Janine Pritchard reserved her decision.

The West Australian

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