Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fear and loathing in Victoria

The censorship issue continues. Is last week's pre-trial Victorian Supreme Court ruling that newspapers cannot reveal the names of three AFL players who tested positive to illegal drugs a blow to free speech?

Not if there's still some semblance of difference between what we consider private and public.

There's no doubt that opinions pertaining to what newspapers can and cannot publish often vary wildly, and in ninety-nine percent of cases I'll fall on the "go right ahead" side of things, but a certain line must be drawn.

When the decision is based around a situation in which private results of a medical test are revealed to the public, I think the line is clear.

Yes, drugs are illegal (at least, the ones in this instance are).

This should have little bearing, however; if the players were before a court of law then there would be no question to the public's right to knowledge. But this is not the case. Instead, an in-house procedure by the AFL has been leaked to the media, and publication of the results violates the players' rights for no reason other than tabloid gossip.

If the AFL - or the clubs themselves - had chosen to release the information, it would be a different matter. The players are contracted employees who are aware of their obligations to their clubs and the AFL, and one of those obligations is to abide by the drug code. Yet with obligations come rights, and those rights, here, are the players' rights to privacy until they, or their contracted employers, choose otherwise.

The newspapers, nor anybody else, have no more right to publish that information than to publish your personal medical records.

8 comments:

Renee said...

I completely disagree. If you're in the public sphere and what some people might think of as a 'role model' for kids, I think you should naturally set a good example.

There is a drugs code and for footy players to be stupid enough to be caught more then once, I think their names should be released. I think it is ethical for the fact it is for the greater good of the community/public.

On the other hand, I think there should be more privacy laws for the 'innocent'. The Sydney Herald journalist who in 1988 went undercover as a Year 11 student and then wrote a scoop releasing full names of the kids dealing drugs at the school, should have gone to jail for that bit of unethical journalism.

botticelli graphiti said...

(I don't really know enough about this issue to comment, but I'm thinking about it.)

I just read your comments on my blog-thing. Thank you!

Are you still planning/hoping to do Law next year? Do you want to be a lawyer, or would you just do Law for fun?

Law's spiffy, I think.
(spiffy's a strange sort of word, I notice... it doesn't look positive, but it is.)

pandaobscura said...

Renee: Thanks for taking the time to comment (and disagree, yay!).

First off, this issue is a lot more widespread than people seem to think. I know for a fact that a far greater amount than three people have used illegal drugs whilst active players on AFL lists: do you think that all those players should suffer the same consequences? And if so where would it end? When all the good players have gone down? When the teams are actually decimated? When competition has to stop because there are no players left?

But I understand that you're ethically uncomfortable with the issue and the players' roles in the wider community as role models, and that can be seen as a separate issue.

In that case, what would exposing these players actually achieve? If the details go unreleased then everything trundles along as usual; for issues that are spectacularly already in the public view players are admonished (e.g. Jay Schulz's drink driving last year) and for those that are private, well, they remain private.

If the issue is actually pursued by the media we will not only see an unfair and totally disproportionate crucifixion of the players, but it could also end up in the scenario that I described above, wherein example after example comes out.

Wouldn't it be more damaging to a little kid (if we presume it's damaging at all - I don't think that's the case, personally) to a child's psyche to see all of his heroes going down one by one, forever stigmatised by the "druggie" image?

pandaobscura said...

Botticelli: Yeah I will probably be applying soon - I'm at Deakin at the minute, and thinking about getting over to Melbourne for semester two (doing what I don't know - they don't do mid-year admissions for Law) just so that I'm in the system.

I kinda like the idea of actually being a lawyer, but it's more a pragmatic decision based on my interests - I wanted to do politics/international relations, but I figure if I do law my job prospects are much better, and I can still focus on those areas of interest too.

Spiffy is a good word. There are not too many times that a double-f is put to good use (Buffy - great show, terrible name; Puff Daddy; the name Biff etc.).

botticelli graphiti said...

Arts at Melbourne has mid-year entry, and the best politics faculty in the country, apparently. We have Philomena Murray!

(yay to philomena murray!)

If you want to transfer into Law from Arts, you generally need to get all H1s... I think. I'm not entirely sure and it varies according to demand and according to fee arrangements and La.

pandaobscura said...

I'm doing my Masters at the moment, so I'm kind of hoping that counts for something - in my last couple of years of my undergrad I got As and Bs too, so hopefully it'll be enough.

Right now I've just gotta concentrate on getting perfect marks this semester. Then, assuming they let me in to Melbourne for semester two, I need to do the same there. And then I'll get a semester of Melbourne Uni politics too :D

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