In our society everyone is entitled to a fair trial and that means that they are entitled to put their side of the story when allegations are made against them. Unfortunately the Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin this week appear to have forgotten these fundamental tenets of a civilised society as they launched their respective assaults on the character of former Northern Territory Labor Senator Bob Collins.
What the SMH and The Bulletin have done in publishing the most serious of allegations of sexual abuse when Mr Collins cannot defend himself because he is dead is grossly unfair.
The matters raised by the SMH and The Bulletin have not been tested in any court. The persons making the allegations have not had their credit and veracity tested under cross-examination. And most importantly, we have not heard Mr Collins’ reply to these allegations.
But crusading journalists and their editors have decided to take it upon themselves to play prosecutor, judge and jury in Mr Collins’ case.
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And naturally opportunist politicians, who give lip service to the right to be judged innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, have jumped on the bandwagon and expressed outrage that Mr Collins was being given a State Funeral.
In short, this is a case of trial by media. The media decides the guilt of someone and is beastly careless about fairness.
The SMH and The Bulletin knew that they could never publish these allegations while Mr Collins was alive because to do so would offend the sub-judice rule, breach suppression orders and expose them to defamation suits.
This was journalism at its most cynical. Let’s kick a man’s reputation to pieces as soon as he is dead because we know there can be no legal comeback against us.
And let’s have no regard for Mr Collins family and loved ones who must now grieve the loss of someone close to them in such a poisoned atmosphere.
And no, there should be no further investigation into the allegations as the Acting Opposition Leader in the Northern Territory Terry Mills is suggesting. How can there be when the man in the frame has no chance of defending himself?
The SMH and The Bulletin have gone on a witch hunt this week. They will no doubt say that they had an obligation to tell readers the truth – but a one sided version of events is anything but that.