Politics

People Are Accusing News Corp Of Hypocrisy After Naming Queensland COVID Teens

"So we don't name the skiiers but we do name the teens? Ok cool. Seems fair."

A set of News Corp publications have publicly identified the two 19-year-old women in Queensland who have tested positive for COVID-19 after allegedly lying to officials about having spent time in Melbourne hotspots.

The decision — which saw the Courier Mail call them ‘Enemies Of The State’ in a front-page spread — has been criticised, given News Corp has previously decided to not name others responsible for COVID scares, prompting people to ask what makes these two young BIPOC women different.

The two women, both 19, had flown from Melbourne to Brisbane via a Sydney stopover on July 21, and allegedly neglected to mention to authorities upon entering that they had attended a party in a COVID-19 hotspot, which would have seen them enter a 14-day quarantine at their own expense of $2,800 each (though they could have applied to have the fee waived over financial concerns).

Before testing positive this week, they didn’t isolate, resulting in 11 sites across Brisbane now having health alerts and a school (where one works as a cleaner) closing for deep-cleaning. One new COVID case in Brisbane has been traced to one of the women.

While News Corp was within their rights to name and identify the women, it’s curious that they decided to name these two women and not another set of COVID rule-breakers, a Melbourne couple with COVID-19 who returned from skiing in Aspen in March and did not self-isolate.

“Telling that the same Australian media outlets which vociferously fought to protect the identity of the Aspen COVID-19 couple are happy to reveal the identity of two POC teenagers,” tweeted academic Soon-Tzu Speechley, alongside a comparison of the two The Age articles on the stories. “Are they not entitled to the same privacy?”

Comparing the articles, News Corp “decided not to name” the skiing couple “for legal reasons”. Those reasons evidently do not apply to the Brisbane teenagers, with some suggesting it’s because there’s less risk of the teens suing than the wealthy couple.

NSW Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi implied that The Courier Mail cover which called the girls “enemies of the state” was intentionally race-baiting. “The Courier Mail knew exactly what they were doing with this cover. Shame on them,” she wrote.

Several have also pointed out this public naming and shaming might only further prevent people with COVID-19 from revealing their full movements to authorities, in fear of further retribution or being outed on a tabloid.

There’s even a historic precedent for it, with HIV activist and writer Paul Kidd comparing today’s Courier Mail headline to Australian media panic around HIV in the mid-’80s.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced yesterday that the state border would close to anyone in the Greater Sydney area from 1am Saturday. Border restrictions had previously been loosened earlier this month, allowing Australians into QLD unless they were in a hotspot in the last 14 days.

NOTE: we updated the feature image to blur out the faces.