Monday, May 14, 2007

The Abuse of Madeleine McCann

The Sun's disgraceful campaign continues.... The coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been of very dubious quality since her disappearance eleven days ago. Predictably, the Murdoch controlled media have been the worst culprits. They have wasted no time in laying into the Portuguese police. The Sun declared that the police were 'slow to react' and have been 'heavily criticised' for their response and claimed that the police 'haven't a clue'. This contrasts with the response of the parents to the efforts of the Portuguese police who have, according to Reuters:

.....praised the Portuguese police for their work and thanked people for the widespread support they had received.

The Sun have also started to refer to the possibility that Madeleine has been abducted by a paedophile, despite the fact that there is no evidence that this is the case (which is hardly going to ease the distress of Madeleine's parents). Yet the motives for The Sun's vitriolic campaign against the police is obvious, it is part of a wider campaign to push through The Sun's twisted agenda.

For sometime now, The Sun has been campaigning for the introduction of 'Sarah's Law', despite the opposition of most child protection groups. They even claimed that 99% of the population support the introduction of this law, despite the flawed nature of the survey they used to produce such a result (dare I say that the poll was rigged??). The case of Madeleine McCann is the perfect opportunity for The Sun to further it's campaign. By using Madeleine's disappearance, and taking advantage of the grief of the McCanns, The Sun hope to further their agenda in the UK. This disappearance is an opportunity. An opportunity for The Sun to milk for all it's worth. And that is what is behind the attacks on the Portuguese police. Unlike the compliant British police, the Portuguese have strict laws about revealing details about the investigation to the press. Although this seems like a sensible policy to most sane people, to the Murdoch controlled press this is a red rag to a bull. This has left them no option but to fabricate utter nonsense about the police and the investigation. The attitude is best summed up by the comments of Sky's crime correspondent, Martin Brunt:

....I really don't know if the police have any real idea what happened to Madeleine McCann. I suspect they don't.

I'm having to rely for information on the local Portuguese press whose accuracy is sometimes highly questionable.

No explanation of why he suspects that, just a broad sweeping generalisation of the type we are used to from the Murdoch media empire. And this is typical of their response to the laws that govern such investigations in Portugal. If only such laws applied here.

Despite the media's attacks on the police, the reality is very different. Many of Portugal's top police officers have arrived from Lisbon to aid the investigation. One Portuguese blogger, Paulo Reis, has commented on the British media's criticisms of the Portuguese police. He writes:

Talking about amassing a huge force of officers let me tell you THAT AROUND 10% OF ALL PORTUGUESE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OFFICERS (Polícia Judiciária, in Portuguese) WERE SENT TO ALGARVE, in less than 48 hours after the abduction. British journalists don’t see police everywhere and they report that fact as an evidence of incompetence. CI officers don’t use uniforms. They work in plainclothes. Both the national police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, in charge of patrolling the cities) and the militarized police (Guarda Nacional Republicana, that has responsibility on rural areas) have special CI units in every major precinct. Those men are working together with the 200 CID officers sent to the crime scene.

Not a version you are likely to read about in the British press. With regards to accusations of the slow reaction of the police, Reis adds:

Police was slow to act, that’s a main idea. They were not called immediately, as Madeleine parents, friends and neighbours searched for her, during some time, in the surrounding area. When police arrived, they need to have some assurance that the child had been abducted. It’s a normal procedure, even for a “real” police, like the British.

Again, not a response I expect to hear in the British media anytime soon. As Reis also points out, it took 13 days for the British police to capture Ian Huntley, so it is a little premature to start making wild claims about the incompetence of the Portuguese police.

There is no doubt that The Sun (and other Murdoch outlets) are engaging in the worst possible kind of child abuse. They are using a child to further their own political aims and paying little regard to the sensitivities of the family of Madeleine. Their abuse of the Portuguese police is systematic of their disgraceful agenda. It is to be envied that Portugal refuses to create the kind of feeding frenzy that is all too common in our poor excuse for responsible journalism. Facts have been completely disregarded in the quest to score cheap political points that seeks to create public support for The Sun's distasteful campaign. Meanwhile, a desperate family await the return of their precious little girl. I for one hope the Portuguese police continue their good work and find Madeleine safe and sound.

You can read Paulo Reis' account here and his rebuttal of Brunt's bullshit here.