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Xenophobia and Schapelle

Obviously Schapelle Corby has a fight on her hands.

So too, I might add, has the Australian government because people are legitimately saying why are we giving a billion dollars in tsunami aid, and why have 9 of our helicopter pilots giving their lives for a country which so transparently cares little about the humanity of individuals.

- Alan Belford Jones, Today Show, Channel Nine, 30.5.05

There are 155 Australian citizens around the world in prison either serving sentences (some on death row), some awaiting trial, and one in Guantanamo Bay. For weeks we've been subjected to the tortured close-ups of a photogenic 27 year-old Queensland woman who was arrested in Indonesia for allegedly smuggling marijuana into the country in her boogie board case.

On Friday, the media circus that was the coverage of Schapelle Corby's trial in Denpasar reached the proportions of a Melbourne Cup (or perhaps of Steve Waugh grafting his way to an SCG hundred), as Channels Seven and Nine breathlessly awaited the judges' verdict. Why were cameras allowed into the courtroom anyway? Even the judge in the Michael Jackson trial had the good sense to keep them out.

The media coverage of the Corby case has been disgusting, and has been brilliantly dissected by the ABC's Media Watch tonight. I'll add the URL in comments when the program goes online tomorrow.

I have no opinion on Miss Corby's case. She has been found guilty following due process of the Indonesian legal system and appeals are expected to be lodged. I am, however, appalled at the latest outbreak of xenophobia in Australia that this case has triggered.

Denigration of the Indonesian legal system because it's not the same as ours. Denigration of the judges' competence because "they don't speak English". Calls to boycott Bali as a tourist resort are ludicrous. Demands for refunds or charitable donations to tsunami relief are simply outrageous, more so when they are given credence on national television by dickheads such as Belford Parrott.

Even more disquieting are the suggestions of a "National Day of Protest" in support of Miss Corby on Sunday July 10 (apparently her 28th birthday). While I have no problem with public protests in support of persons believed to be wrongly convicted, I fear that this "National Day of Protest" could easily turn into a "National Day of Xenophobia". Editorials in today's New Strait Times in Malaysia indicate that the damage may already be unfolding.