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Schapelle Corby

Like a much watched horror movie in slow motion, the trial of the unfortunate Schapelle Corby has come to its inevitable conclusion via the wonders of mass communication and a mass hysteria of compassion; a compassion singularly lacking in the imprisonment of hundreds in Australia's gulags, where the victims remain faceless and nameless.

I wonder what degree of sympathy would be felt if the individuals in Australia's detainee camps were to have their cases covered to the degree that Schapelle Corby's case has in the past eight months? If we were to observe the anguish of separation, isolation and hopelessness suffered by imprisoned people whose only crime was seeking freedom and refuge, would we come to a similar degree of empathy for these victims?

As tragic as the Corby case is, it is only the revelation of her predicament as a visual phenomenon which elicits our sympathy. If the cameras were not there, Ms Corby would barely exist in our consciousness; and if she was on trial in an Australian court, say for importing drugs into Australia, her case would be virtually unknown, - whether she was guilty or not - (the great unknown in the Bali case - though the evidence against her would appear to be very strong). The agony felt by the Australian people, no doubt fed by a latent xenophobia to some degree, appears to be magnified, unsurprisingly, by the harshness of the sentence. For an offense which would incur at most a two to four year sentence, (possibly suspended) in Australia, Corby could have been sentenced to death in Indonesia, and the twenty years she received would place her amongst the harshest of sentences in Australia.

I wonder what a difference it would have made if the case of Lindy Chamberlain had been covered in a similar fashion to the Corby case; i.e. with the agony of her personal predicament bared for all to see? Let's not forget that Lindy was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Northern Territory, and that at that time life meant life - not twenty years. Life. In a way these two cases are the absolute opposites of each other. Lindy was tough, Schapelle is vulnerable. Lindy looked hard, as she set her face against her accusers, Schapelle is beautiful and sexy. Lindy was married to (horror of horrors) a Seventh Day Adventist minister, Schapelle is just a happy-go-lucky Ozzie girl. Lindy was convicted by a sensationalist media, and a public who were prepared to convict her from a vantage point of ignorance and rumour. Schapelle is defended by those of a similar vantage point.

Put simply, Schapelle is defended because we feel for her, therefore she is innocent. But what if she is guilty? What if she were to confess, in the hope of a pardon? Would our sympathy be the same? It would for me, because one cannot but be sympathetic for a young lady in such a dire predicament. To pronounce her innocent from thousands of kilometres away is altogether another matter. In the end the Corby case is less a case of serious journalism and impartiality, than it is a sick version of Big Brother, and in a way, we, as the voyeurs, are complicit. The fight for universal justice goes way beyond the Schapelle Corby case.

Posted: Thu - September 21, 2006 at 04:47 PM      
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