opinion

Dozens of people have breached COVID-19 restrictions. Only two have been pictured.

The faces and names of two Queensland women have been plastered across newspapers and social media this week. 

"Enemies of the state," one Queensland newspaper declared them in bold type. "Dumb and dumber," hollered a Victorian stablemate.

The 21-year-olds were yesterday charged with fraud and deliberately providing false or misleading documents under the Public Health Act. 

Queensland Police will allege the pair deliberately tried to avoid quarantine upon returning from a trip to Melbourne by giving incorrect information on their border declarations.


They are now both in isolation in a Brisbane hospital, having reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. That's after they spent several days moving freely around the community, working and socialising.

These women, these so-called "enemies", have not been named by police. That was the media's move.

That decision has unleashed a torrent of online vigilantism, as commenters weigh in with their ideas of appropriate justice and declarations about what they 'deserve'. This discussion has included commentary on everything from their appearance, to assumptions about their places of birth presumably prompted by the colour of their skin.

Meanwhile, those accused of other significant breaches of COVID-19 directives have been kept anonymous.

From the security staff that flouted protocol in Melbourne's quarantine hotels (and are believed to be the source of the recent surge in cases), to the NSW man recently discovered hiding in the boot of a car crossing the Queensland border.

Or the Queensland doctor who provided misleading information on his border declaration pass and failed to quarantine after a trip to Melbourne earlier this month.

Or the Victorian couple who flouted isolation orders back in March after returning from the Aspen ski resort in Colorado, where they contracted COVID-19 at an exclusive cocktail party. Dozens of Australian infections were later traced back to people who'd attended that event.

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We don't know any of these people's names. We haven't been shown their faces.


In fact, in the Aspen circumstance, a number of major media outlets declared that they had made a deliberate "editorial decision" not to identify those involved.

Yet those same outlets this week shared the photographs and names of the two Queensland women.

Why?

The nature of their charges are particularly severe, certainly — they're facing a maximum penalty of $13,345 on the misleading documents charge and five years in prison on the fraud one. And yes, the media often identifies and pictures people accused of criminal offences. 

But this public naming and shaming occurred even before any charges were laid.

This is not a case of them deserving our sympathy. What they've been accused of is utterly abhorrent and the potential consequences of their alleged recklessness, sickening.

But given Queensland Police say these women are now cooperating fully, and given that Australia's contact-tracing system is considered among the most robust in the world, it seems pertinent to ask:

What is there to be gained from knowing what they look like? Other than, that is, more anger, more vitriol and division.

Feature image: News Limited Newspapers.

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