by Dianne T, Research biologist and web developer, Ocean Shores, NSW
Right now my heart hurts and I feel very shaken by something that is happening right in front of me. The Australian media are in the process of aggressively harassing people who have come to hear a presentation on healthy, loving lifestyle choices. I’ve been before and I choose to come again because what I learn makes a great positive difference in my health, work, relationships and my ability to handle stress and life in general.When I first arrived I saw a television crew with three big cameras outside the front door. I wondered what was happening but it didn’t feel good. They filmed me front on, but had not the decency to introduce themselves, or tell me why they were there or ask my permission to film me. Then I could see that they were blocking the door and staking out people as they arrived, filming them without permission too. I looked in the door and could see more television reporters wielding cameras, filming and harassing the puzzled audience including children and teenagers. I went in the other door and sat down, and got to observe abuse by reporters of people standing a metre in front of me. So I began writing on my lap as I watched.
A few weeks ago I was invited to take photos and films of a street march by members of my local community who were raising awareness about toxic agricultural chemicals. Many of my friends were there and all present were of like heart about the issue. Notwithstanding the fact that I was asked to film the rally, and that they were friends and community, I was strongly advised by someone more savvy in public events to only take pictures with at least five people in them, as to take photos without permission of individuals or just a few people was against the law and a violation of personal rights.
Now here I am watching reporters from a well known television channel doing just that, and quite aggressively too. They are upsetting, confusing and offending people who don’t yet know what’s happening. The reporters appear to be exempt from the law, which individuals such as myself are bound to obey or face the consequences. What consequences do agents of the media face when they invite themselves in and without permission, ambush people with strange leading questions, thrust video cameras into their faces and film them looking confused, follow them around even when they ask not to be filmed, and even hit away their victim’s hands when they put them up to fend off the cameras and questions?
In discussion with other attendees who’d arrived before me, it transpired that the media reporters had turned up at the venue early to ambush the event and disrupt it before it even began. It seemed that they were totally uninterested in actually interviewing anyone to learn the truth, but only interested in grabbing film footage of people looking confused and not knowing what to say (presumably so they could go off and do their film cut-and-paste to make up whatever lies they wanted). I ask anyone reading this: if you’re quietly taking a chair and getting ready to listen to a lecture on health, and suddenly a giant TV camera is thrust in your face by someone you don’t even know the name of, who asks you a leading question from left of field, would you be puzzled? Confused? Offended? Would you feel a bit off balance and possibly say something you’re not sure of before you have a chance to think about it? That was the impression I was getting from the people who had been assaulted by the reporters in that way.
By what right does the media do this? How is it that TV reporters are allowed to act with such contempt for standards of common human decency and honesty? They may be employees, but I hold them personally responsible and culpable for the dishonest and abhorrent way they are conducting their business, and subsequently with whatever lies they broadcast on TV, radio, online or in the newspapers. For peaceful citizens to be affected this way as a result of media aggression is unacceptable. It has to change.
[Written on 12th October 2012 whilst attending a Universal Medicine event at Lennox Head Community Centre]