The South African Daily Sun ran a front-page photo last month of a minor-aged girl "being gang-raped," Politics Web reported. The photo came from a "cellphone video of the gang rape."
The Daily Sun identifies itself as a ten-year-old newspaper with "over 5.5. million" daily readers. According to the Daily Sun, the video was acquired from a "concerned resident" and then the newspaper took the video to the police.
The Daily Sun described the video as "horrifying" and noted that it "shows the girl being raped....screaming and begging her attackers to stop." Media Monitoring Africa added that in the video "seven boys gang-rape a 17-year old Soweto girl" and "the video went viral on social networks." The full video, which was reportedly made by the boys who raped the girl, "lasts 10 minutes and 33 seconds," according to Agence France Presse.
News 24 noted that the Daily Sun wasn't the only outlet to run content from the video: "EyeWitnessNews (EWN) broadcast an audio clip of the rape video, with a warning to sensitive listeners, while the Daily Sun published a screen shot of the girl in a seated position, with men standing around her." EyeWitness News editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis is quoted as telling News 24 that it used "very short, edited and non-explicit" portions of the video's audio.
Reporting on Rape Video Led to Girl Being Found
The victim went missing in mid-March, according to CNN, and was found after the Daily Sun's report was published April 18.
While Politics Web noted that the Daily Sun's involvement in the story did lead to the girl being found, it was also a "risk" because it was a "grey area" as the victim was a minor, mentally-ill and a victim of sex crimes. The Daily Sun reported May 8 when the girl was found after a "37-year-old gardener..recognised" the girl from the Sun's coverage and brought a police officer to where she was.
Politics Web reported that the Daily Sun's acting editor Reggy Moalusi said the newspaper contacted its lawyer before taking action and "it was not an easy decision." The Daily Sun noted in its own a graphic novel-esque strip explaining its coverage of the girl and the gang-rape that it discussed its intentions with "the ombudsman, the girl's mother and the police."
Politics Web noted that "most feel the Daily Sun made the right judgment call" because it "rescued that vulnerable, mentally-ill girl when all others had failed her." For example, Politics Web noted that the Sunday Times reported that "the police failed to fully investigate the girl being raped on two previous occasions but the mother was ridiculed and insulted each time she reported the attacks to the police.
According to the Associated Press and News 24, in mid-April, seven boys aged 13 to 19 and one 37-year-old were initially charged in the case. News 24 reported:
"The seven faced preliminary charges of rape, sexual assault, engaging the sexual services of a minor for reward, using a minor to create child pornography, committing a sexual act in the presence of a minor, committing a sexual act in the presence of an adult, and creating, possessing and distributing child pornography."
A May 3 CNN story reported that the "four minors" -- three 17-year-olds and one 13-year-old -- in the case "were released on $67 bail." According to CNN, the three 17-year-olds "will face full prosecution," but "the court has not made a ruling on how to prosecute" the 13-year-old. Two 18-year-olds and one 19-year-old are still "in custody." However, charges against the 37-year-old, who was "accused of kidnapping and raping" the girl, were "provisionally withdrawn" in early May, according to IOL.co.za
"Ends to Justify the Means?" Reactions to Coverage
Media Monitoring Africa noted that the Daily Sun said "they were given consent by the girl's mother" but, ultimately, Media Monitoring Africa argued the Sun "is using and emphasising the ends to justify the means." Media Monitoring Africa wondered:
"Assuming that the paper, by publishing the girl’s picture, helped in the arrest of the perpetrators (which is in no way certain) – does that make it okay to publish on front page of a national newspaper the picture of a girl who is a minor, a victim and also a witness to a crime? Where should the media draw the line? As there is no public interest here, what makes this case so special that it outweighs the law?"
News 24 reported that University of the Witwatersrand's Anton Harber said "it would be ludicrous to charge the media" for publishing portions of the video, but the footage must be handled with "extreme caution and sensitivity." Further, News 24 reported that the National Prosecuting Authority's Mthunzi Mhaga indicated the video is "child pornography," which is a "criminal offense."
Hat Tip: Journalism.co.za