The exploitation of ‘mystery woman’

This has got to stop. There is absolutely no public interest in publishing the name, mental health history, work history and schooling history of the ‘mystery woman’ found in Dublin. It is a gross invasion of privacy, they are exploiting someone vulnerable and I am actually gobsmacked at what they feel entitled to publish. What the hell is wrong with them?

(Yes, I understand that I am contributing to the coverage. I didn’t want to link to the articles, but felt it was necessary to show why I have singled out these journalists.)

Considering what they had already reported – that she was found in a “distressed state” and thought to be a sex trafficking victim – you’d think that it might cross their minds that publishing her name would actually be harmful. That they should just report that she’s been identified and leave it at that. But no. It’s fucking revolting.

Where is their decency? No, fuck that. Where is their familiarity with their own codes of conduct?

For the benefit of Megan Levy, Nick Miller, Anne Davies and Marissa Calligeros who have reported extensive details of the woman’s mental health, medical history, schooling history and court history, here is Fairfax’s code of ethics:

Staff will strike a balance between the right of the public to information and the right of individuals to privacy. They will recognise that private individuals have a greater right to protect information about themselves than do public officials and others who hold or seek power, influence or attention. They shall not exploit the vulnerable or those ignorant of media practices.

Well, they’ve failed that.

For the benefit of Kieran Campbell who gormlessly reported that the family has asked for the media to respect their privacy and then went on to write 1,145 words about her mental health, her weight, photographing her former workplace, interviewing her former boss, details of what she was like as an employee and how often she smiled at work, the school she went to, her court history, places she’s lived, the nursing home where her grandmother lives, and the time her plane left Ireland, here is New Ltd’s code of conduct (pdf):

4. Privacy
4.1 all individuals, including public figures, have a right to privacy. Journalists have no general right to report the private behaviour of public figures unless public interest issues arise.
“Public interest” is defined for this and other clauses as involving a matter
capable of affecting the people at large so they might be legitimately interested in, or concerned about, what is going on, or what may happen to them or to others.

Nope, no public interest in this case. Fail.

For the benefit of Philip Williams who wrote “Investigations by the ABC have found that during the past three years she has spent time on the Gold Coast in Queensland and the Blue Mountains” because that’s such an important investigation, here is the ABC’s code of practice (pdf):

6. Privacy
Privacy is necessary to human dignity and every person reasonably expects
that their privacy will be respected. But privacy is not absolute. The ABC seeks to balance the public interest in respect for privacy with the public interest in disclosure of information and freedom of expression.
Intrusion into a person’s private life without consent must be justified in the public interest and the extent of the intrusion must be limited to what is proportionate in the circumstances.


For the benefit of AAP journalists who just keep pumping out these stories, here is what your code of conduct has to say:

Personal privacy should be respected unless it interferes with publication of matters of public record, or of significant public interest. If in doubt, consult the Editor.
Approaches to people suffering trauma or grief should be undertaken with care and sensitivity.


I think a big part of the problem is that these journalists are too far removed from the person they are writing about. She doesn’t exist as a real person to them, just as a snappy headline and a catchy standfirst. Isn’t that right,

It didn't take long for journalists to stick the boot into a vulnerable young woman.

It didn’t take long for journalists to stick the boot into a vulnerable young woman.

I don’t generally wish bad things on people. But I will here. I wish that quite a few journalists become newsworthy and have their medical history and other personal details splashed across the media. Might change the information they feel entitled to publish.

9 responses to “The exploitation of ‘mystery woman’

  1. I was horrified to watch an interview on ABC last night, on 7:30 Report no less, with an old acquaintenance of the girl (a pastor or something) discussing her mental health. The hide of them!

    • Oh, that is disgusting. There are a lot of people involved in getting a story to air and I am shocked that one of them didn’t put their foot down and say no. I’ve singled out the journalists who wrote these stories, but the online editors are also at fault.

  2. I just read the Aus Guardian: they are suggesting the young woman is a fraud who got herself detained on purpose to save herself the cost of accommodation etc. They list how much it cost to hold her.
    I was thinking about a holiday to Vietnam next year: but instead, I think I’ll get myself detained under the Mental Services Act, because apparently that’ll be much more fun.
    I think they are cross because they wanted a story about a particular kind of Tragic Victim and the young woman can’t provide it for them.
    I wonder if they would have reported on the story if she was an indigenous person. I don’t think they would have written about a man in that situation.

    • Oh, for fuck’s sake. What jerkheads.

      You’re right – it’s not the story they wanted and they would never write about a man this way. And if she was indigenous, they wouldn’t write it at all.

  3. I’m just not entirely sure of the newsworthiness of this at all.
    She’s a young woman – who may or may not be at risk, based on her mental health – who “went missing” in Europe.
    Now the media is reporting about her “murky past” and talking about how the “media is turning on her”.

    I have to admit I didn’t really pay any attention at the beginning of this, but WHY is this a story?

    • The story began with the police in Ireland appealing for help in identifying her. The media got excited because young woman! Possible sex slave! Doesn’t speak much English! We might be heroes if we identify her and save her! And then when they found out she was Australian and wasn’t a sex trafficking victim, they went to town on her. Everything they’ve published about her is irrelevant to the story. It’s just gratuitous and grubby. The story should have ended with “yep, she’s been identified”. But no, that’s now how our misguided media works.

  4. Pingback: Down Under Feminists’ Carnival LXVII | Kiwiana (inked)

Go on, you know you have something to say...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s