Vic activist wants parliament media rights

Karen SweeneyAAP
Right-wing activist Avi Yemini (with microphone) is suing for media access to Victoria's parliament.
Camera IconRight-wing activist Avi Yemini (with microphone) is suing for media access to Victoria's parliament. Credit: AAP

A right-wing activist is suing Victoria's parliament, claiming he's being unfairly excluded as a member of the press gallery.

Avi Yemini has recruited high profile media lawyer Justin Quill and barrister Will Houghton QC to challenge a decision by the parliament's serjeant-at-arms.

Yemini is a member of the "alternative media" who should be encouraged to cover politics in order to give a different point of view to that disseminated by the mainstream media, Mr Houghton told Victoria's Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The court heard Yemini first applied for media accreditation, which would allow him access to the houses of parliament, the building and its surrounds, in March this year.

In court documents Yemini said he has worked as a journalist since late 2019 when he was recruited by British organisation TR News, which is operated by far-right agitator Tommy Robinson.

He left in September 2020 to work as the Australian bureau chief for Canadian-based company Rebel News. At the same time he registered his own media company, The Yemini Report.

Yemini said when he applied for a parliamentary media pass he was told "we only move media passes to employees of accredited media organisations" which included commercial televisions stations and newspapers including The Age and Herald Sun.

"We are quite strict about to whom we provide media passes. We have only limited space in our press gallery and we are obviously a building that requires stringent security protocols," an email to Yemini said.

His application was refused, and no reasons were given, in July.

Mr Houghton has sought an urgent judicial review of the serjeant-at-arms' decision to refuse Yemini a media pass, saying it's particularly urgent because of the upcoming state election in November 2022.

"We can't stress highly enough that next year will be a big year for political news leading up to an election in November,' he said.

"Certainly members of the public in Victoria are well served by the mainstream media but there is always room for an alternative voice and that is not currently being heard because of the prohibition on the ability of my client to enter the (parliamentary) precinct."

He said Yemini was excluded from talking to parliamentarians, ministers, advisers and staff in the corridors of parliament and that directly affects his ability to carry out his work as a journalist.

Glyn Ayres, representing three parliamentary office-holders being sued by Yemini, rejected that claim.

"He's still entirely able to report on and comment on proceedings of parliament - he's able to approach members of parliament if he wishes to attempt to speak to them," he said.

He also said even if the hearing was expedited and Yemini was successful it woudn't necessarily guarantee him a parliamentary pass before the election, given parliament rises in September.

Judicial Registrar Martin Keith said it was important the matter be heard quickly and ordered documents be filed by both parties before February.

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