The Sunday Times newspaper’s decision to republish on the front page and online a photograph clearly staged to provoke racial unrest is exploitative, tasteless, morally reprehensible and incendiary.
Although it will no doubt hide behind high-minded principles of public disclosure, this decision was apparently taken with a view to selling more newspapers.
I cannot fathom how those involved can justify to themselves republishing the entire photograph. If they wish to identify the alleged perpetrator, they ought to publish his face, not the rifle and the corpse of the little boy.
This irresponsible action threatens to destabilise a society which already hangs in the balance. If this is journalism we’d be better off without journalists.
The journalist himself stated: “Child advocacy groups said the production and dissemination of the picture violated several laws, including the Children's Act, the Films and Publications Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.” And yet the Sunday Times has further disseminated the same picture. Blanking out the child’s face is hardly enough to overcome the presumption that the Sunday Times is now a party to the dissemination of hate speech.
The Sunday Times is doing the free press of this country a disservice. Parliamentary debate currently centres on the Government’s right to censor the media. This type of article can only provide ammunition to those who wish to enforce draconian press laws. I pray that the other publications in this country will demonstrate the responsibility and restraint that is the prerequisite for a free and independent media in our precious and fragile democracy.
Adv Zach Joubert
Member of the Cape Bar
High Court Chambers
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