28 February 2014

Swaziland: Pressure On 'Observer' Over 'Rape'

opinion

The Swazi Observer has not said if it will pay the eight alleged rape victims it identified financial compensation.

Meanwhile, an international media ethics watchdog, iMediaEthics, has joined the growing outcry against the newspaper that later apologised to the women but shrugged the incident off as a 'boo-boo'.

iMediaEthics has written to the Observer demanding an explanation or its huge lapse in media ethics. It also wants the newspaper to respond to a call from Swazi Media Commentary for the editor to resign.

The intervention comes after the Observer published the names of the victims as part of its coverage of the start of a trial of an alleged serial rapist. The newspaper named the women and gave details of how each of them was allegedly attacked.

After an outcry by readers the Observer published an apology to the women but said it had made a 'boo-boo' and a 'snafu' by naming the women.

It did not say whether it would pay the women compensation for publishing their names. The newspaper has not announced that it will discipline the editor or other staff member for the error. Unlike in Swaziland, in many countries it is a serious offence to name alleged rape victims. For example, in England an editor would be taken before a judge on a contempt of court charge.

The women named by the newspaper are all too poor to be able to afford to take the Observer to court. However, if they had been able to, the compensation that the paper, in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, might be required to pay out could be enough to bankrupt it.

iMediaEthics, under the headline Seriously? 8 Rape Victims IDed, Error called a 'Boo-Boo', said it had written to the Swazi Observer to ask if any of the victims complained or threatened legal action.

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