Mutilated child photo not illegal

2014-07-09 00:00

THE sharing of a photo of a dismembered child that went viral on social media is an indication of society’s moral decay, but it is not illegal.

But the SAPS have said it will order an investigation into just how a photo of four-year-old Lungisani “Kiki” Ngubane’s mutilated body was circulated on ­Facebook, WhatsApp and BBM.

Some of Lungisani’s body parts were found in a room inside a church in Ncontshane, outside Pongola in northern KZN. The photo shows the toddler’s severed head, thighs, legs and one arm lying on a concrete floor. An arm and the torso appear to be missing.

But police are still uncertain whether all the parts belong to one person and have sent the remains for analysis.

Pietermaritzburg psychologist Clive Willows said social media can distance the public from understanding another person’s suffering.

“The danger with social media is it can desensitise people from something that is intrinsically horrific. People lose the personal component and distance themselves. The danger to emotional distance is we become desensitised to the suffering of others,” said Willows.

He said certain professions, such as the emergency services, become naturally desensitised, as a method of coping with the trauma they see.

University of Zululand criminologist Professor Johann Ras said while it is not a crime to share such images, it is a sign of moral decay.

“Often people share horrific photos either to bring attention to the incident or for personal credit. The former is a tactic used to heighten the publicity of white farm murders, for instance,” said Ras.

He said only instances where a police cordon has been breached and the photo would jeopardise a criminal investigation, would be seen as a criminal offence.

“There is no law prohibiting people from taking photos of a crime scene provided they were outside of the cordoned off area. The police do not own the crime or the location where it occurred. Police and emergency services have also increasingly started taking photos to send back to their station or senior commander. While we might question the motive behind the picture being made public, there are enough grey areas that allow [it] to be taken and distributed.”

He said that the public have become desensitised to such images due to the Internet and digital photo sharing. “We have lost our moral compass. Children can no longer differentiate between right and wrong. We are in a moral crisis,” said Ras.

SAPS spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the investigation into the murder was at a sensitive stage.

“No arrests have been made and investigations are continuing. An investigation will be launched into how the photos found their way to the social media,” said Zwane.

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