“Ons verdrink in ons trane” [We’re drowning in our tears] (Beeld, 23/07/2011, pg.4) featured four photographs of families of victims of a police helicopter crash. According to the article, the families were attending a memorial service at Pine Ridge, eMalahleni (Witbank), to commemorate one year since the crash took place.

The story revolves around an emotional General Bheki Cele’s statement made at the memorial service for seven policemen who died in the helicopter crash which occurred in 2010. General Cele remarked, “Please God, don’t allow us to cry forever, we might find ourselves sinking in the pool of our tears – we have cried enough.”

Four photographs were included in the report. The first of the four photos shows a visually distraught and grieving colonel, father-in-law to one of the victims of the crash. He is seen holding his late son in-law’s son. The young child’s face is not facing the camera.

The second photo shows a 10-year-old boy and his mother, widow of one of the victims of the crash. A female police officer—with arms comfortingly outstretched—attempts to comfort them. The young boy—as well as his mother—are both clearly, emotionally distraught and crying.

The third photo shows other mourners while in the fourth and most prominent photo, two people are seen: Captain Mpho Chantel Moloi, with the six-year-old son of one of the crash victims, sitting on her lap. The caption states that the police officer was comforting the child. The young boy is also clearly emotional.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned as to why it was deemed necessary to seemingly illustrate General Bheki Cele’s statement—about drowning in tears—with the current selection of personally invasive photos of the grieving family members; particularly that of the two young boys, whose father was killed in the crash.

From a reportage perspective, MMA regards the inclusion of these photos to be an ethical violation of Section 5 of the South African Press code; namely that which refers to dignity and which states “the press shall exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving dignity…bearing in mind that any right to privacy may be overridden only by a legitimate public interest.” Secondly, there’s also a violation of the more obvious, basic right to privacy of the family members who attended the memorial service, provided for in Section 4.1 of the Press Code.

Although the newsworthiness of the memorial service is most certainly in the public interest, MMA is of the opinion that the combination of, making use of the ‘drowning in tears’ statement with that of the poor choice of photos to seemingly illustrate this, is of secondary value and importance to the memorial event that ought to have been the primary focus of the news report.

MMA thus allocates a MAD to this article and the inappropriate photographs accompanying it.

We urge Beeld to uphold the right to privacy and dignity of grieving individuals, particularly children in the media.