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By Luc Loranhe (2006)
I have been working in the media for almost four decades, but even though I have a professional interest in press freedom, I believe the media is far too unrestricted in most countries. The legal systems of many countries should be modified so that the media can be held responsible for the damage they do by their reporting. This should include, but not be restricted to, inciting hatred and invading privacy.
Nowadays, any man who is convicted or even just suspected of having had sexual contact, even consensual sexual contact, with a person below legal age, is portrayed in the media as a monster.
Terms like "sexual predator" are no longer only the domain of tabloids but have made their entry into the vocabulary of conservative papers. They are no longer just used for men who have murdered children or caused them severe injury. In some countries, like, for example, Australia, they are commonly used for men who have had consensual sex with a person below the age of 18.
And because the US and the UN internationally consider anybody below 18 uniformly as a child, the distinction between 7-year olds and 17-year olds somehow gets lost (tabloids don't want to diminish the emotional impact of a story on a sexual predator by citing prominently that a victim was, for example, a consenting 17-year old male prostitute).
If one reads newspaper reports in Europe or anywhere in the world, it appears that an ever increasing number of children that have been sexually molested are subsequently murdered, most commonly by strangulation. And when the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes are caught, it surfaces that in most cases, the murder was not committed because it would have been planned, or because the murderer would have derived sexual satisfaction from strangulating a child.
In most cases children are murdered because a man who abused a child suddenly fears all the publicity he will get if his acts are reported to the police, which releases all details to the press, which definitely will treat the matter as front-page topic.
And yes, a man who realizes that, possibly in sexual affect, he has done something wrong with a child, even if it was only some fondling, may fear the media frenzy more than the punishment, and may therefore decide to silence the witness (the abused child).
The media, with all the coverage about "sexual predators" and "monsters", thus bears some of the responsibility for every sexually abused child that is subsequently strangulated.
Yes, it may be that the fear of publicity has a deterrent effect on some potential child abusers. But applied morality is about making judgments between evils, and choosing the lesser one. And in my opinion, to avoid that children are murdered horribly in order to silence them weighs heavier than the preventive effect of huge media attention on sexual abuse cases in which not even physical injury was done.
The media anyway doesn't play the theme for its deterring aspects, but plainly for commercial benefits. Sex sells.
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Copyright Luc Loranhe