Defying Court Order, Canadian Paper Publishes Rehtaeh Parsons' Name

A second young man has pled guilty in the child pornography case involving Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old Canadian girl who died last year after she was taken off life support following a suicide attempt. Her family says Parsons was bullied mercilessly after she was raped by two boys at a party when she was 15, bullying that eventually led to her death. One of the teens who took photos of her alleged rape pled guilty to manufacturing child pornography and was sentenced earlier this month to no jail time and no probation. The second, now 19, pled guilty yesterday to distributing child pornography. In reporting the plea, one Canadian newspaper, Halifax’s Chronicle Herald, defied a ban on publishing Parsons’ name, pointing out that her parents want her to be identified.

Parsons was identified by name in Canadian media reports around her death until earlier this year, when a judge ruled that since she’s a victim of child pornography, she can’t be identified. (Nor could her family use her name in an advertisement they tried to take out to call renewed attention to her case.)

The Canadian media resorted to referring to the Parsons case as “a high profile child pornography case,” since they also can’t use the names of the teens who disseminated the photos. (Anger over the ban led to the hashtag #YouKnowHerName, created by Canadian reporter Hilary Beaumont.) But in a lengthy editor’s note, the Chronicle Herald said they would use Parsons name in defiance of the ban, for a variety of reasons:

We’ve decided to publish the name of the victim in this story, despite a court-ordered ban. We believe it’s in the public interest in this unique case, given the widespread recognition of Rehtaeh Parsons’ name, and given the good that can come, and has already come, from free public debate over sexual consent and the other elements of her story.
Rehtaeh’s parents want her name printed, and Judge Jamie Campbell, who upheld the publication ban, wrote in his decision that “the ban serves no purpose,” though he had no choice but to uphold it. Waiving Rehtaeh’s privacy rights “would be a good thing, if it could be done just for this case, just this once,” the judge wrote.
It is difficult for readers to follow a news story when the name associated with it is omitted, and we want to inform Nova Scotians of the outcome of this legal case. We would like to reassure other crime victims that their own court-ordered privacy rights will be respected as always.

Rehtaeh’s family called the publication of her name “brave” on their Facebook page, writing, “Rehtaeh Parsons is her name and they know its not in the public interest and certainly not in Rehtaeh’s interest to silence her… Show them our support.” But today, the Chronicle Herald reports that they’re being investigated by the police for violating the ban, after receiving numerous complaints from citizens.

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