Friday, September 5, 2008

ABC Admit Schapelle Corby Smears

Back in 2005 the facts of the Schapelle Corby case were laid bare for the public to see. She was denied a fair trial, and her human and legal rights were cast aside. She was sentenced to an unprecedented 20 years in an Indonesian prison cell.

Quite naturally, there was uproar in her own country. All this, and more, was visible to the public.

The refusal by the police and judiciary to test the drugs for origin, which could have cleared her instantly, was open information. The refusal to fingerprint or DNA test, was known by all. The record of the show trial judge, of never having acquitted anyone in over 500 drugs cases, was exposed. The burning of the evidence to prevent it being subsequently used to free her was shown starkly in photographs and images.

The cat was out of the bag. The truth was there to be seen.

Unfortunately, truth alone is not enough. The Australian government was apparently transfixed, wringing its hands and claiming impotence. The Australian media? Surely they would rally round, campaign, and help an Australian citizen in grave need?

No. Large sections of the media adopted a far more sinister approach, choosing to pick at her like vultures on a dead carcass. This went way beyond the vulgar but expected cheque book journalism the world is familiar with. A process of smear and innuendo was initiated. Muck was thrown at the Corby family from all directions. This went on and on, week after week, month after month, year after year.

However ridiculous the stories, however unsubstantiated, however untrustworthy (or paid!) the sources, throw enough muck and some will stick. Schapelle Corby will eventually be seen as guilty by association. Over a period of time, people will forget the very facts they have actually seen with their own eyes.

This is precisely what has happened.

Some of the worst excesses in Australian journalistic history have been evident with this case. Stories have been fabricated, and legally shown to have been fabricated. Opinion has been presented as fact, and real facts have been buried. The Australian public have slowly but surely had a false reality pulled over their eyes, to blind them from what they had seen for themselves.

As Schapelle Corby lies in a squalid cell suffering from serious clinical depression and related conditions, her family have been in turmoil. Such is the serious impact this has had upon her, even Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) have taken an interest, openly accusing their own media of undermining her.

Only recently have a small number of people started to respond to this unprecedented abuse. Malicious unfounded stories, for example, are starting to be challenged by individuals, not only from Australia, but also overseas.

The most recent challenge relates to ABC's Lateline report "Corby's dad linked to drug trade" in which it blatantly reported these "allegations" as fact. Of course, this happens regularly, and is merely a footnote within the overall media onslaught. However, in response to a formal complaint by a concerned viewer, ABC was forced to respond:
"On review, the ABC acknowledges that its reporter should have stated that allegations have been made that Mr Corby was involved in the drug trade, rather than stating these claims as fact. We have concluded that the following statements by the reporter are in breach of 5.2.2 of our Editorial Policies;
'It's now clear there were at least two generations of Corbies involved in the drug trade. Together, the father Michael Corby senior and his daughter Schapelle Corby represent 30 years in the marijuana business.' 'But Michael Corby senior's experience in the drug trade involved more than just the occasional puff.' 'Throughout his long drug career, Michael Corby senior avoided going to jail.'
The ABC agrees the report should have included a reference to the fact that Queensland Police found no evidence to suggest that Mr Corby was linked to the cannabis seizure at Tony Lewis' property, given that Ms Moore's testimony was included in the report. Our investigation has found that because Lateline was aware of this information but failed to include it in the report, this lack of context is in breach of 5.2.2 of ABC Editorial Policies."

But what about all those countless other breaches, by so many media organs, over the years? How can they possibly retract the serious damage these have done to Schapelle Corby and her life?

Are ABC and the networks now going to focus on the REAL issues? The show trial? The breaching of Schapelle Corby's legal and human rights? Her conditions? Are they actually going to initiate the campaign they should have launched 4 years ago, to free her?

Or are they going to continue to smear, to increase the pain of someone suffering so badly already, without even a cursory nod to ethics or morality?

Those responsible should be spending some serious time hoping that karma is a false concept. The rest of us, however, should be hoping that the Australian media belatedly recognizes its responsibilities to report fairly, accurately and ethically. Someone's life does actually depend upon it.


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