An article in the Sunday Times is one to get glad about, because it raises interesting issues about abuses in rural areas. However, there are some aspects in this piece that one could get mad about.
The News & Opinion section of the Sunday Times opened with an article about a girl, on Sunday 26 August 2007, headed “Justice plea for victims of farm abuses”. The girl, who is now fifteen, suffered third degree burns after she allegedly was chased by a farmer four years ago. She and two cousins were collecting wood at a farm when the farmer allegedly targeted them with his 4×4 vehicle.
The eleven year old ran away but fell into a veld fire, where she suffered her burns. This story is placed in the News & Opinion section because it raises interesting questions about relations between people in rural areas. It gives examples of violence in rural areas over the last few years. Farm dwellers complain about abusive farmers, who in return note the increase in attacks on farmers.
The article describes the problems that are still alive in present day South Africa. It takes the example of this young girl who got attacked and places it in a broader perspective. The positive thing about this article is that it highlights sensitive subjects that need to be addressed, like the violence that still is a part of everyday life in rural areas.
However, there are downsides to this article. Firstly, although it gives gruesome examples of violence, there is no statistical information provided. The first step to tackling the problems is to identify and measure them. Given the sensitive nature of the issues at stake, these would have drawn attention to this kind of attack as a social problem as opposed to an isolated event.
Secondly, Sunday Times shows and names a fifteen year old child in this article. The girl’s privacy is violated and she can suffer the consequences from that within her community. At fifteen, the girl, and perhaps her parents too, may have agreed on her being named and her pictures taken. However, the journalist, from an ethical stand point, still needs to consider whether this is in the best interests of the child. The picture might infringe on her right to a private life, as stated in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Naming and showing an underage child is something newspapers should refrain from, in cases like this.