Reckless Reporting On The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Rape Case

What an interesting country we live in. 2010 will probably go down in history not only as the year we hosted the World Cup but as the year we had some of the most interesting dialogues on policies this nation has ever had. Sadly most of these interesting debates do not happen in parliament but rather on the internet and Newscafes. One such debate has been on the Media Tribunal . The general consensus among most South Africans seems to be that the government is going too far by trying to suppress media freedom.

Just when I thought the ANC's proposed bill on Media Control was as futile as any of the new policies our 'beloved' (cough) government has come up with this year, The Times goes and makes a blunder that gives credence to the argument that the media in South Africa has too much freedom. 

Honestly now, we were winning the debate on the negative repercussions of having this Media Tribunal and Protection of Information Bill. Firstly Debra Patta calls people racist without any factual basis or credible evidence to support such utterances and has to apologise... NOW... What the heck was Judy Elliot thinking by naming the UJ rape accused in her article? Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?

So the story goes that this young man, who was an SRC member and an anti-rape activist of some sort on campus, after a night of inebriated fun at the graduation night shindig ended up having sex with another student. He says it was consensual, she says it was rape. Nonetheless the matter is in court. 

Instead of waiting for the court to rule on this matter, Judy goes and writes an article; Rape Activist On Trial For Rape. Nothing wrong with that. She is just reporting, that's her job, right? Wrong. 

Unfortunately the said journo goes a bit overboard by naming the guy. She does not just give his first name but she puts his whole name there even his middle name! 

Ok, yes if the courts make the accused's name public then that information can be used in any way by the media but come-on; where's your sense of responsibility and integrity as a professional or better yet, as a human being?

The accused is only 24. Where in your journalistic rule book does it make it ok to ruin people's lives without facts. At this stage the whole incident is “he says, she says”. I am all for rapists being named and shamed but only when they have been proven guilty. I know people always say the victims of rape get re-victimised by the system but lets be honest- not every woman who cries rape is actualy a victim. 

What if this was indeed consensual sex, would Judy then write an article naming and shaming this girl for lying (if she is)? I don't think so. Now whether this guy is INNOCENT or GUILTY he is always going to have his name tainted by this kind of reckless journalism. All you have to do now is just Google his name and RAPIST will pop next to it.

What bothers me most is that incidents like this will give the ANC more ammunition in trying to convince the nation that the media has too much power and can destroy people's lives. Well in this case, even with all the lies the government has fed the nation, this will be true. 

This type of insensitivity and total disregard for defamation of character is highly disconcerting. Journos need to understand that they are dealing with people's lives and should put their conscience before profits. Now a young man's future career prospect may be ruined if he is innocent.

AGAIN, if this guy is found to be GUILTY then by all means NAME and SHAME him. I will even help on that by putting his picture and name on my blog BUT if he is innocent I hope The Times and Judy will have the decency to write an apology and/or retraction clearing this guy's reputation. 

Let's prove to this nation that we as writers have hearts and a conscience. Let's not give 'you know who' any leverage by proving them right.

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