Much can depend on just a few words. David Hicks pleaded guilty in front of “an ad-hoc military tribunal designed to try non-US citizens according to an unacceptably low standard of justice.”

He was released today from prison. Here’s how some news sites described him.

The ABC online: “Confessed terrorism supporter” but in photo caption “Convicted terrorism supporter”. A quick search shows that the ABC don’t mind describing Hicks as convicted (1 and 2), therefore implying his conviction was real and just. And listening now to the news break in the cricket, ABC radio are using the word “convicted” too.

The Age: “Confessed terrorism supporter”. The word “confessed” could imply guilt and doesn’t leave open the real possibility that Hicks read a confession purely to get home to Adelaide.

My favourite though is from the News Corp team: They shorten it to just “Terrorism supporter”. I mean what the f***!? You’d think he has an Al-Qaeda scarf and jumper.

Am I being finicky? I don’t think so. A lot of thought goes into what words to use in a situation like this. And a few words can begin to form the accepted truth. And as you can see, the different Australian news sources are gradually forming a timid consensus.

Try some of these on for size: “Returned Guantanamo Bay detainee”, “Alleged Terrorism Supporter”, “Former US-detainee”, “Australian-who-was wrongfully-detained-without-charge-in-a-kangaroo-court-and returned-to-Australia-when-it-became-politically-convenient, David Hicks”?

Okay, that last one was a bit flip’, but perhaps you see how a few words can change your feelings towards the man, and his story.

The International Herald Tribune goes the extra mile: “David Hicks, the only person sentenced by the U.S. military commissions set up to try suspected terrorists…”

1 Response to “Convicted”

  1. 1 Anna Lawton
    December 30, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    What stops the media from focusing on the horrific conditions in which David Hicks was subjected to at Guantanamo Bay and reporting on the “wrongfully-detained” David Hicks? Why won’t the media take a stand for once when there is clear injustice here? The Age printed an opinion piece “A shameful episode” but it was not written for the masses to understand, it was written for the intellectual in the hope that another intellectual gets mad and hey, writes another letter!

    No matter what David Hicks’ reasons for being in Afganistan were, we should never lose sight of the fact that his human rights were breached, he was detained in inhumane conditions, held without charge for an unacceptably long period of time, tortured in the process and eventually sentenced by a military commission that was determined by the US Supreme Court to be illegal. How infuriating that our media so quickly forget these “finer” crucial details.

    It is all too easy to ignore the situation when we don’t know the person or if they are from a particular religious background, because we have been conditioned by the media (and politicians) to ‘expect’ it.

    I wish that journalists should shift their focus today and try to imagine David Hicks is their brother; imagine what life must have been like living at Guantanamo Bay; and acknowledge the injustice that has been inflicted on this man and report the truth.

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