Monday 3 January 2011

The press - too much freedom?

I have several problems with the reporting of the murder of the Bristol woman, Joanna Yeates.

Firstly, the media's preoccupation with this particular case. As I recall, there was a young boy shot dead over Christmas, but nothing was made of that. So why focus so much attention on the case of Ms Yeates (tragic as it is)?

Secondly, what gives the press licence to refer to her as "Jo", as though she were a friend, or someone we all know well (or feel we do, like Princess Di)? Most of us don't know her at all, and it seems to me that it would be more respectful - especially under such devastating circumstances - to refer to her by her full name.

And lastly, there is the appalling trial-by-media of her landlord, who has been granted police bail and released. Perhaps he is guilty, but there has been no trial, and he may well be innocent. People have been interviewed and have described him as odd, or weird. But there are lots of odd, weird people around, and that doesn't make them murderers (never mind the fact that these are subjective opinions, and one person's odd may be another's interesting, or just a bit eccentric). This man had had his reputation ruined for the forseeable future, whatever the outcome. Should he even have been named at all?

As far as this last is concerned, I'm all for the freedom of the press. Up to a point. But there's always a price to be paid, and quite often the person paying it is both vulnerable and, more to the point, perfectly innocent.


  1. I totally agree with you, Frances. I'm not sure people should be named before they are tried and found guilty. When suspects are acquitted there's always the feeling that 'there's no smoke without fire' and, as you say, people have their lives ruined simply (often) for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or like the unfortunate landlord, being slightly less average than people would like. The press seems to have no truck with 'innocent until proven guilty'.

  2. Very well put - I agree with all that, Frances.

  3. Hi, Alis. I hope you had a good break. This was rather a sober post to start the year, but the whole thing was getting to me. The press in this country have an awful lot to answer for, and SO much - too much - power.

    Hi, Teresa. Glad you agree!