South Africa’s News 24 unpublished a video showing a fatal accident at a school because it upset readers.
In a Feb. 9 news story, News 24, a news website, explained that a reporter recorded the video of people trying to rescue high school students who were trapped under a concrete slab that fell on top of them. The accident happened at Hoerskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. “We published this footage in an effort to highlight their courage and unity of purpose,” News 24 said.
News 24’s editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson apologized for upsetting people, and said he discussed the matter with News 24’s public editor George Claassen. News 24 noted it published warnings with the video, but enough readers were still concerned.
Claassen was appointed public editor in January 2018, as iMediaEthics reported at the time. He told iMediaEthics by e-mail that he “received a lot of complaints from people living in the city/town where the tragedy took place.”
Claassen noted that he also serves as the ombudsman for Media24’s Community Press, which includes “more than 90 weekly papers.” One of those papers published the video, and then News24 published it, he wrote, noting that it was edited to “hide the faces and bodies of children.” When News 24 consulted him about the complaints, he recommended News 24 take the video down because he found the video invaded privacy and upset readers without being in the public interest.
Claassen provided iMediaEthics with his guidance, which read in part: “We are not protecting the privacy and dignity of people who are bereaved [and] we are not showing any respect for those children,” he advised. “Numerous professional people have complained about the trauma we are creating by publishing this.”
Claassen added to iMediEthics, “My philosophy is that we should be accountable to our readers and this bereavement in the Vaal Triangle emphasised this.”