Tuesday, 9 February 2016

I am trying to remain calm but I am angry

- very angry indeed.
There was a report in the media some time ago. It claimed that a five year old had been raped at the detention centre on Nauru. At first it hinted that a local Naruan might be responsible. Then there was a bit of a backtrack and it was "possibly" someone in the refugee camp. There were demands that the child was removed, that all children were removed. Claims were made about how dangerous the refugee camp was, how bad the facilities and food were - and more.
The media loved this. It was headline material. They reported it all in detail. It was presented as fact. Yes, we had to believe this. We had to believe what was being said by a particular member of the Senate  - the one who has made a name for herself saying how dreadful it is to keep people in detention. It caused what appeared to be a groundswell of people opposed to the bi-partisan policy of off-shore processing. Yes, a good thing you might say.

I don't want  people in detention. In particular, I don't want children in detention. But I also don't want to be lied to. And I knew we were being lied to by the media.
It is perhaps particularly difficult for me because my job sometimes gives me access to information other people don't have. It is even more difficult because I can't always share it - even though I would like to do so.  I had heard that the situation on Nauru was not quite as dire as the media was making out. I heard whispers that the story about the alleged rape victim was perhaps not quite accurate. I wasn't allowed to say anything of course - and I didn't know enough to say anything anyway.
Now the media is no longer allowed on Nauru except by invitation and the payment of a hefty visa fee. There are good reasons for that - and they are not the reasons they keep suggesting.  
Today, in a Senate hearing someone finally said that the victim did not exist. There was no five  year old rape victim. Yes, there had been an incident. A boy, more than twice that age had apparently made a complaint about a boy two years older than himself. There had been "skin-to-skin" contact. Yes, it was likely inappropriate behaviour - perhaps the first homosexual fumblings of adolescence? We will never know.
The point of all this however is that the story has done great harm. It has harmed those directly involved. It has, now that it has been found to be a lie, done harm to the cause of refugees. There is, despite the "LetThemStay" campaign, a backlash against asylum seekers. There is a greater readiness to disbelieve their claims - and much more besides.
It also means that the media is no longer welcome in places like Nauru. They can no longer be trusted. They have shown they won't tell an honest, truthful and balanced story. They will concentrate on the negatives, embroider them where possible and, if necessary, fabricate a story. It means people are not being informed - and that the media can go on reporting the "information" given them by people who have other agendas.
But there is another group which has also suffered because of this story - those who have been raped. To learn that someone has fabricated a story about rape for their own political purposes must be devastating for many rape victims.  I am too angry to say more.
I am fuming about this. Perhaps I shouldn't be. I know enough about the media and the way in which it works to know that "truth" is not what matters. It is the "story" which matters. It seems it doesn't matter how much harm that does. It will make a politician, some advocates, and some journalists feel important for a bit.
How can they sleep at night?

No comments: