Backlash against the Bulletin for not naming accused
When a father of two was arrested in the Terrasse-Eardley neighbourhood last Wednesday and charged for possession of child pornography, the Bulletin promptly reported this via its website – once the news was confirmed by police. Bulletin journalists interviewed the police, the courthouse clerk and the accused’s lawyer prior to publishing the article. The accused did not respond to the Bulletin’s requests for comment.
An investigation had led to the arrest, so the charges are believable and they do not include production of pornography or physical abuse. The accused is free on bail, under strict conditions. His identity splashed across the media could compromise his ability to get a fair trial, and would not protect the public since his risk as a sexual offender is not part of his arrest, and is even less likely with his restrictions.
The journalistic team at the Bulletin, especially the editor, has covered child sexual abuse and child pornography charges more times than we wish to remember. It is with extreme delicacy and diligence that decisions are made by the editor regarding publishing names, and at what point during a case.
At present, with his arrest so recent and court procedures just beginning, the accused remains formally innocent. That is fundamental to our justice system. There is no reason to publish his name. He poses little to no threat, or he would not be free on a small bail. As his case moves through the judicial process, his name will be released and published. A more sensationalistic media might throw his name into their headlines, but that does not make the practice fair or journalistically honest.
A series of articles over the last few years on child sexual abuse, written by the editor with the help of CIASF (Centre for helping child victims of sexual abuse, as well as the perpetrators), has, the Bulletin hopes, helped Aylmer understand the complexity and the need to support people close to the victims and perpetrators. People can recover in varying degrees from these traumas.
In this era of digital churning, with gut-turning amounts of child pornography accessible, it is critical that everyone know of the services available for sick people. CIASF provides resources for people sexually attracted to minors; they need treatment.
Canada’s lawmakers have a role in policing pornography sites. In the top ten visited pornography sites in Gatineau, every one of them has content related to incest and ‘teens’. There is a sickness in the system as well as in individuals, with much work to be done. Sensationalism only compounds these difficulties.
Readers have the right to seek information; in fact the Bulletin’s future counts on this hunger. But a witch-hunt or sensationalist reporting serves no one, least of all the ultimate goals of our society, which include a life after healing from trauma.