The Swazi Observer, the newspaper that published the name of eight victims of alleged rape and gave details of their attacks, has called the outrage a ‘boo-boo’.
On Tuesday (18 February 2014) it published across its front page and two inside pages details of a court case involving an alleged serial killer. It published the names of the women, something that contravenes journalism ethics across the world. It called its report ‘a sneak preview’ of the court case.
The newspaper gave their names and details of how each attack took place. It named one woman and revealed she was a virgin.
In all of the attacks violence including a knife was used. In all cases the alleged rapist did not use a condom.
On Friday (21 February 2014), in a tiny piece, the Observer said it had made a ‘snafu’ by publishing the names.
It made an unreserved apology, but tried to pass off the outrage against the women as an understandable error and said it was ‘caught with our guard off’.
But that is not true. This was not some minor mistake like spelling someone’s name wrong. This was evidence that at the Swazi Observer they don’t know what they’re doing.
The report would have been seen by the original reporter who wrote it, a sub editor (copy editor) whose job it is to check for mistakes, possibly a headline writer, a news editor, and the editor. Not one of these ‘journalists’ spotted the mistake.
Not to publish the names of victims of rape is one of the first things a student journalist learns in school. But not one of the Observer journalists who saw the story on its way from the reporter’s computer keyboard to the published page realised anything was wrong.
In its apology the Observer wrote, ‘We believe this expression of regret or apology appropriately matches the scale of the error.’
No it does not. What disgusting indifference the Observer has shown to the women it has terrorised.
The Observer went on. ‘Indeed, the only decent thing we could do after mixing up the rules is to draw our own sword and hang ourselves’.
But that has not happened. No one has resigned. Instead, they have asked their readers for forgiveness. But, why should they give them that? They have the right to expect at least the minimum level of competence from the newspaper.
But, they have not got that. The editor should resign and if he does not, King Mswati III who in effect owns the paper should sack him.
Then the newspaper should contact the women involved and ask how many millions of dollars they must pay them in compensation?