It is admittedly a long time since I was trained and worked as a journalist. However, this practice of outing suspects in a police investigation and discussing every detail is quite disturbing to me and I wish that the press would learn to exercise some forbearance. In fact, I would suggest that it is still unlawful in The Bahamas.
I speak now to the story about the travails of my constituent Sandra McDonald who according to the press is to be charged with an offence in connection with the death of her 3 year old child. I make no comment on it save that one wonders if this is not a matter best addressed by social services rather than by the criminal law.
My concern here is the sensationalism of the story written by The Tribune on 23rd April which carried an interview with Ms. McDonald under the headline: I DID NOT KILL MY BABY. No doubt the press will say: the public has a right to know and that she being of full age should not have spoken to them. That may be so but the more important question is, should the press have done it? Could The Tribune not be accused of taking advantage of a guileless woman speaking to them in the midst of grief, and they rushing to print in the ever energetic effort to beat to the punch (the pun is intended) my cousin over at the nameless down market rag to print very bit of gossip and sensation to make money, in some cases at the expense of the truth and in most cases without due regard to the damage it causes to people who are not public figures.
Increasingly, the mainstream papers, the papers of record (Tribune, Guardian and Journal) have been engaged in this kind of competition, which I think is irresponsible.
When you enter a police lock-up you are told that you can remain silent but if you say anything it can and will be used against you in a court of law. No such prescription is offered by the journalist, but that does not mean that the journalist or the editor should not exercise some responsibility to know when it is right to publish something and right not to do so. In other words, they ought to know better and should not have published that story, particularly knowing that the woman was released pending inquiries.
Let us pray for all the people who suffer in this matter: the mother, the father and our Fox Hill community. Let us hope that there is a lesson for greater good in the tragic loss of a three year old.
Fred Mitchell MP
25th April, 2010