The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has joined the growing chorus of condemnation of the Times Sunday newspaper after it published a nude picture of a woman blackmail victim.
The woman’s former boyfriend had published naked pictures of her on social network sites and had sent them to her work colleagues and others who knew her. This was after their relationship broke down and the couple argued over money.
The Times Sunday interviewed the Zimbabwean man at length and published his story and included one of the pictures he was circulating. It blurred out the woman’s face, breasts and private parts, but published a second picture of her in which she could be clearly identified (despite a small black strip printed across her eyes) and gave enough details of her workplace to make identification easy.
Now, SWAGAA has said in a letter published by the newspaper, ‘The Times Sunday stooped to a new low by publishing the blackmail picture of the Swazi UK Embassy employee last Sunday.
‘The methods the “Spiteful Zimbabwean” used to retaliate against a girlfriend over financial disagreements were certainly distasteful but what was even more distasteful was the fact the newspaper played right into his hands.
‘By publishing a private photo, the newspaper helped to spread his evil intent – to damage this woman’s reputation - and her life. SWAGAA is extremely disappointed in the newspaper’s decision to publish this photo.
‘The Times Sunday is guilty of thoughtlessly inflicting pain for a brief moment of titillation and has breached the ethics of responsible journalism. Citizens of Swaziland deserve better than this.’
SWAGAA joins the Swazi Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland chapter, and numerous readers of the newspaper in attacking the newspaper for its sensationalist journalism.
The ICT Ministry in a statement said it was ‘horrified’ by the publication of an ‘indecent’ photograph.
It went on, ‘Chapter Three of the Constitution protects Swazi Citizens from “inhuman or degrading treatment,” and further confers “respect for rights of family, women and children”.
‘The Preamble of the Code of Ethics as adopted by Swaziland National Association of Journalists, clearly states that its members must “adhere to highest ethical standards, professional competence and good behaviour, in carrying out their duties.”
‘It further states that while “the public expects the media to play their watchdog role, they shall do this with a high sense of responsibility, without infringing on the rights of individuals and society in general”.’
MISA supported the Ministry stance. It said in a statement, ‘MISA-Swaziland is the first to decry the endemic censorship in the kingdom, however on this issue, we acknowledge the position of government.
‘The ICT ministry may not have the finest record on matters of freedom of speech, but MISA-Swaziland must give credit where it is due. The government is invoking the media code of ethics and the Constitution as it was meant to be invoked: to protect people from degrading and inhuman treatment.’
The Swazi Observer newspaper also reported University of Swaziland journalism lecturer Maxwell Mthembu and Swaziland Consumers Association Chairman Bongani Mdluli had called for the Sunday Times to issue an apology.
The Times Sunday told its readers in a statement published in the newspaper yesterday (3 February 2013), ‘Publication of the story and blocked picture in question was a result of a decision to show what some people will do in the name of love.
‘The story was meant to be a warning to both men and women to be careful, even if they are in love.’
It made no reference to criticisms that it had broken the code of ethical conduct and the Swazi Constitution.
‘TIMES SUNDAY’ ENCOURAGES BLACKMAIL