Friday, June 3, 2011
Outspoken, veteran journalist Derryn Hinch is facing a jail term for a crime that should never exist. He named two child sex offenders.
Derryn Hinch is no saint and I am sure over that fifty year period there are some things that even he himself regrets saying or maybe feels differently with age. One thing, he and many other brave journalists will never regret is exercising freedom of speech, especially if it means saving a future victim of child abuse. The wide coverage of articles on Derryn Hinch's case is mostly appeasing to the status quo. As though we need to protect perpetrators more than we do for children. There is something deeply disturbing about our judicial system, if a sex offender can be jailed for less than a year in Australia, but naming them can cause up to four years of imprisonment for exercising freedom of speech.
There have been numerous reports on the failure of the system in protecting children in and out of care. Where children are saved from abuse only to end up into another abusive situation, simply because child protection did not screen the parents properly. It was only a few years ago that some states in Australia introduced a system where people working with children are screened properly for prior offences. Those abused before its introduction would have had to endure this in silence. Laws in both child protection and Family Court are designed so that children's cases like these, even after deaths are restrained from speaking out to the media.
There is a good reason to be protective of children and how the impact of the media can be destructive, but I would argue that an act of abuse by another does not damage the child's reputation. Its the stigma and shame others chose to place upon victims that is damaging. Where the media is selective in portraying one angle of what the victim conveys that degrades them is what poses a difficult question on children and the media. It does not mean children should not have access to the media at all, but there should be strict guidelines on how they are portrayed and their rights to remove it if they wish. The media is and will always be a double edged sword. We need the media for transparency, especially where vulnerable members of our society are abused under the veil of secrecy. We need to protect children from sex offenders as we know that they are likely to do it again.
Its not a normal crime, treating it so, only provides more loopholes these perpetrators can jump through. But the least we need right now is to know who these perpetrators are so that we can protect our children. In many other countries, parents are at least given that right. The right to know and prevent these abuses from occurring again. The right to be outraged when one is placed near a school or a daycare centre. The right to protect our children, our future is one that is universally agreed:
The fact not only is a man dying of liver cancer going to jail, but the fact that he is going to jail for doing something that is legal in many other countries and considered by most as a favour to the Australian community. The media has successfully smeared this act as though he is wrong for doing so. Yet it is bizarre that such a question is not being actively challenged.