Fixed it: headlines are a choice

A man  pleaded not guilty to three counts of rape and one count each of sexual assault, choking and breaching a domestic violence order. The Daily Mercury reports that his trial is underway in Mackay District Court.

*The trial has not conclude and the man is entitled to the presumption of innocence. This commentary is not about his guilt or innocence, it is solely about the way the media reports on allegations of men’s violence against women*

Court reporting has very strict rules. No one is allowed to speculate about guilt or innocence or publish anything that might influence anyone involved in the trial, such as juries and witnesses. There is no room for opinion or commentary while a trial is underway. Court reporters must report on the evidence presented and nothing more.

Trial by media is dangerous, often ill-informed and is counter to all the principles of natural justice.

Too often, however, these requirements are interpreted by editors and journalists as a directive to focus on claims made by defence lawyers and ignore evidence presented by victims and prosecutors.

This has created a habit of using claims made by defence lawyers as headlines. Victims of crime have no legal representation. Defence lawyers might well claim media intrusion on a case if they don’t get a ‘not guilty’ verdict. But there’s little risk attached to victim blaming and it makes a sensational headline, sympathetic to the male dominated readership of Murdoch press’s new outlets. 

The original headline was technically correct. But so is my alternative. Which one would you choose?

(If you’re reading this on social media, links are in the OP at www.patreon.com/JaneGilmore )

FixedIt is an ongoing project to push back against the media’s constant erasure of violent men and blaming of innocent victims. If you would like to help fund it – even $5 a month makes a big difference – please consider becoming a Patron

If you would like to know more about how and why the media’s erasure of men’s violence against women occurs, the Fixed It book is out now!

Buy your copy here or at any good bookstore. Extracts available on why Fixed It started inThe Guardian, rape and other violence myths in The Age/Sydney Morning Herald and the Good Guy trope on my website.

1800 RESPECT
Sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and support.24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
Ph: 1800 737 732
www.1800respect.org.au

Djirra – Aboriginal Family Violence Response & Support Service
9am – 9pm, Monday to Friday
Ph: 1800 105 303
djirra.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ph: 1300 659 467
www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Kids Helpline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 1800 55 1800
www.kidshelp.com.au

MensLine Australia
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 1300 78 99 78
www.mensline.org.au

Men’s Referral Service
Monday – Friday – 8am-9pm
Weekends – 9am-6pm
Ph: 1300 766 491
www.ntv.org.au/get-help