A discussion of contemporary issues in media ethics, with olives and a twist. Made with only the freshest ingredients, shaken, stirred and poured over ice. I should also mention that I do like the odd, occasional martini. Bombay Sapphire gin and Lillet, dry and plenty of salty olives. Welcome to this cocktail of journalism and alcohol. A fine combination!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Prostitutes, privacy and media harrassment

Good things come in threes...but not it seems if you're a sex worker caught up in a high profile media broo-ha-ha.
I recently mentioned a Herald on Sunday story that outed an Auckland businessman who frequented a brothel in the city. My point then was that the guy had done nothing illegal (at least as far as the paper could report), so why was the HoS harassing him?

I got a brief reply to an email I sent to the journalist. Basically her response was "I know a lot more, but can't say anything for legal reasons." Let's see what next Sunday brings - perhaps another installment in that story.

The story also featured a photograph of a woman who, according to the caption, was a worker from the brothel in question. Her face was turned away from the camera, but she'd be identifiable to people who know her.

Now this week the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective has gone public with a complaint about an immigration department raid on another Auckland brothel in November last year when officials were accompanied by a television crew shooting for a reality TV series called Borderline which is produced by Auckland company Cream TV.

A man, who was a client at the brothel at the time, died after jumping from a window to avoid being caught on tape by the crew from Cream. Immigration officials at the time said they knew nothing about this unfortunate accident. it looks like they didn't really care either, but someone must: perhaps a family member, a child, a friend.

A former NZ Immigration Minister and now consultant, Tuariki Delamere described the raid as "Gestapo tactics".

The Prostitutes' Collective wants a ban on such ambush raids by television crews. Quite rightly, the collective's spokeswoman Catherine Healy is concerned about the invasion of the privacy of both clients and sex workers.

I think this is an interesting and important issue. Sex workers in New Zealand and many other places are doing nothing illegal if they're employed in a licensed brothel. But because of the stigma attached to the world's oldest profession (I'm sure that's just a crap cliche, but it fits here anyway) they are fair game for the media.

I think we tend to forget that prostitutes are also friends and lovers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives. They are deserving of respect as much as anything and certainly deserving of their privacy.

And what's with immigration officials allowing the cameras to accompany them on a raid like this. If they're looking to uncover criminal activity (in this case perhaps illegal "overstayers", or some such), what public right do they have to agree to allowing a commercial TV production company to follow them onto the premises which are essentially private property?

The television company has no right and if they barged in without the cops or other officials there, they'd be trespassing. I'm sure any warrant issued for the raid that resulted in the death of the client did not specify "and TV crew" as a party to the affair.

These so-called reality shows, like "Border Security" and so on make me bloody angry and pretty sick too. It's a combination of trivial voyeurism and the legitimation of authority in the name of public service and entertainment.

What public service? I'm sure Cream TV is only interested in the profits it makes from such programmes. I've checked their website, no hint of an apology to the sex workers, or the dead man's family and none from TVNZ either which screens this crap.

While I'm on the topic of prostitutes, privacy and media harassment, the third story this week is about the governor of New York.

Dickwad! Caught in an FBI sting operation and wiretapped making arrangements to see a high-priced hooker. He's resigned, for the sin of hypocrisy rather than adultery, one suspects.

But the newspapers today are splattered with photographs of the attractive young woman who Eliot Spitzer is alleged to have liaised with. It seems that her privacy is not an issue for headline-hunting media pimps.

Again I draw your attention to the NZ Herald, which is carrying a photograph, but saying that it was the New York Times that outed the young woman. This is a neat media trick - wait until someone else breaks the dam then pour through the cracks fullspeed. It was the NYT (see below).

There is a public interest angle here.

The public interest in this case is in Spitzer's anti-crime public persona being contradicted by his private prediliction for under-the-table tonking. As an "Elliot Ness"-style anti-corruption crusader he should probably not consort with criminals. But that does not justify the NY Times naming the call girl, or writing a feature exposing her personal life to the world. That is just prurient self-interest on the part of the media, it does not add one jot to the public interest in this story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


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