The Queensland Human Rights Commission has urged against double standards and confirmed it’s been contacted by concerned members of Brisbane’s African migrant community who are already reporting abuse, after a number of media outlets named and shamed two young women accused of breaching COVID-19 restrictions.
Concerns have also been raised about how publicly shaming individuals could result in fewer people coming forward for testing.
The Courier Mail ran images of the two with the headline, “Enemies of the State.” The names of the women were also published across multiple outlets, including the Nine newspapers, television networks and the ABC.
The pair, along with a third woman who travelled with them, have been since charged with providing false or misleading documents and fraud. They are alleged to have lied about travelling to COVID-19 hotspots, after travelling through Sydney from Melbourne on their way back to Brisbane. Police allege they deliberately misled authorities. The fraud charges carry a maximum of five years in prison. They have also already received extensive fines for their actions.
Queensland Human Rights Commissioner, Scott McDougall, said in comments published by The Guardian that other Queenslanders and people from interstate who breached restrictions have not been publicly identified, even when their activities have led to outbreaks — such as the recent Noosa birthday party cluster.
He also noted that the guards that are allegedly at the centre of Melbourne’s second wave of infections have not been publicly named or had photographs released.
In late March, a couple from Melbourne who tested positive to COVID-19 after returning from a skiing trip in Aspen, were the subject of multiple police complaints after they were seen shopping and playing golf, when they were supposed to be in quarantine. At the time, both the SMH and The Age said they had decided not to “name the couple for legal reasons.”
“The right to privacy should apply equally to everyone,” Scott McDougall said.
“Some members of the community are already reporting abusive text messages and social media harassment, others are worried about their children being harassed or abused on their way to and from school,” he said.
“Already we have seen comments to ‘deport them’, ‘send them back to where they come from’, and worse, alongside appallingly hyperbolic coverage from some media outlets branding them with terms usually reserved for people accused of treason and other high-level crimes.”
Ketan Joshi has detailed numerous racist posts that have been made about the pair in the below Twitter thread. He notes that the comments have not been removed from comments sections across various publications, nor across social media. “This is explicitly a racist thing. Their audience says the quiet part out loud,” he tweeted.
YWCA Australia has also issued a statement, noting that while the young women had made mistakes, the issue should have been handled by the appropriate authorities. Their images and names did not need to be splashed accross the front page.
“The front page of the Courier Mail today is a deliberate editorial choice to blame young women of colour, and by association, communities of colour, for the COVID-19 outbreaks. It is a deliberate editorial choice to villainise people of colour.”
The YWCA described it as an ongoing trend of blaming people of colour for the COVID-19 situation. “This is a class war and a war on communities of colour. It is not acceptable.”