Thursday, April 4, 2013

Slippery slope of self-gagging

Their silence is ominous...

Why is mainstream media not prepared to release the name of the elderly individual arrested on suspicion of sexual offences as a result of Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children by British media personality Jimmy Savile and others?

Why are these supposedly reputable media outlets stifling our right to freedom of information when they normally clamour to be our daily dose of them?

Why are organisations such as the BBC, the Mirror, the Sydney Morning Herald and even the Guardian utilising this tactic in this particular matter?

Why has mainstream media so firmly closed ranks that we now have the strange spectre of a self-imposed lock-down of news that is normally deemed in the public interest?


Blogs and the twittersphere have been abuzz with the breaking news (which may turn out not to be breaking news after all given that an elderly Australian entertainer was interviewed by the police under caution in November 2012)...

...and have been babbling away on the subject for days since his arrest.

Mainstream media's silence is completely baffling and troubling. By self-gagging, they are single-handedly consigning themselves to the slippery slope of press censorship.

Surely it has to be in the public interest to report fully in these matters for both our protection and for the protection of those under suspicion. We can't have the police going around arresting people anonymously - everything the police do they do in our name because they represent us, the community...

...I repeat, they represent us so we have a right to know what is going on, and more importantly the person arrested ought to have the right to know that we, the public have been informed as to what is happening and that we the public will ensure the ensuing process is fair and just - how can we do this if we don't know what's going on and to whom it is happening?

Furthermore, it is quite definitely in the public interest to know why mainstream media outlets have imposed this blanket media silence on the person of interest’s name - it's become utterly farcical and inconsistent.

In my opinion, mainstream media needs to:
  • get a grip of themselves,
  • re-familiarise themselves with the raison d'etre of being journalists,
  • remind themselves that they have reported full details of other 'arrestees' connected to Operation Yewtree presumably in the knowledge that such reporting is not an acknowledgement of guilt or otherwise, and
  • publish the elderly Australian entertainer’s name.
Why are mainstream media being so cautious in their non-reporting? – who exactly are they protecting?


(a version of this post was published a couple of days ago on USyd's 'online journalism' blog )

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