26 June 2009

Zambia: Nude Photos Anger Women

THE women's movement has complained against THE POST Newspaper's circulation of a picture of a woman in childbirth, saying it is a violation of the woman's privacy and dignity.

The Post Newspaper has since apologised for the action, saying it was done out of ignorance.

In a letter to The Post news editor and chairperson of the Press Freedom Committee of the Post Chansa Kabwela, the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council (NGOCC) said it was shocked and disgusted at the pictures.

NGOCC board chairperson, Marian Munyinda said in the letter dated June 12, 2009 to Ms Kabwela that as a media house, the action of the The Post was expected to be guided by ethics and moral judgment.

"We have been extremely shocked and disgusted at the pictures you have circulated of a woman in childbirth. Not only is it a gross violation of the woman's privacy and dignity but more so of the sanctity of human life," reads the letter.

Ms Munyinda said portraying naked women in the Press generally contributed to and perpetuated the denigration of women in society.

"The media is a powerful force for change and we hope you can use this power for good," she said.

She said although the NGOCC was infuriated with the protracted strike by health workers and the impact it had on the sick and vulnerable people, the means used by The Post to portray the desperation was inappropriate.

The letter was copied to Vice-President George Kunda, Secretary to the Cabinet Joshua Kanganja, Minister of Health Kapembwa Simbao, Women for Change (WfC) and the Catholic Archbishop of Lusaka.

In a letter dated June 10, 2009 to Mr Kunda and copied to Mr Kanganja, Mr Kapembwa, the NGOCC, WfC and the archbishop, Ms Kabwela enclosed the pictures urging the Government to take action on the strike by health workers.

"I write you to bring to your attention images that we have difficulty publishing in our newspaper of the very desperate situation at our hospitals arising from the on-going strike.

"Enclosed are the very disturbing pictures from the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka that have been brought to our newsroom," she said.

She said she had sent the pictures in the hope that they would move the Government to take quick action and end the strike by health workers.

But following the protest by NGOCC, Ms Kabwela on June 15, 2009 wrote a response letter to Ms Munyinda where she apologised for having offended the women's movement by sending the pictures.

"Our action was not intended to offend you as an organisaton championing the cause of women. We sincerely apologise for offending you and the women you represent by sending you those pictures," she said.

"And for that we are extremely sorry. We have learnt our lesson and we will know how to conduct ourselves in future over issues of this nature. Please excuse and forgive our ignorance, we are not polymath," she said.

Ms Kabwela said the pictures were not taken by The Post but by the husband of the same woman who complained that it should not happen to another woman.

She denied that her newspaper had circulated the pictures saying the intention of sending the pictures to a few selected people was to make them aware of the situation so that they could be moved to do something about the plight of women as a result of the strike.

And Zambia United Front chairmen Mike Kaira demanded an apology from The Post Newspaper and all those responsible for publishing pornographic pictures which were offensive to the womenfolk in the name of political journalism.

"We need an unreserved apology for being overzealous. It is such actions which make politics dirty and it is high time people realised that when they make mistakes, they should take responsibility for it.

"The Post should be ashamed even to confirm the story in their opinion. They are shallow and petty. They've abated committing a crime," Mr Kaira said.

The same pictures have now been widely circulated and are being sent to people's email addresses.

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