Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bees story, journalism heaven

SHOOT: I stumbled across this article by Gill Moodie [who else] on the latest, sensational story. The Bizcommunity title 'Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right' implied to me a story about the police being wrong to take over Bees' car, and Bees being wrong to allegedly murder said police officer. But the article covers something else entirely, and it's something our gossip greedy media [and their consumers] need to be reminded of.
Here's a standout section for Moodie's article: may be arrested on a charge, [but] the prosecutor may decide there is not enough evidence to pursue it. If this comes to pass, it's totally unfair to have your name splashed about in the media, casting doubt on your reputation.

SHOOT: I am keenly aware just how damaging an arrest can be. In 2009 I was arrested on a malicious charge at Norwood Police Station. No media were involved [even though I was employed at a media company at the time] but the personal cost in terms of one's reputation can't be overstated. Despite the case being bogus, the prosecutor throwing it out for no evidence or witnesses, what do you think the reaction is of friends and family, colleagues and co-workers? There is the implication that on some level the person arrested was mixed up with the Devil's work.

I have also been illegally arrested, in other words the police proactively charging or attempting to charge - so I am aware how the police are predisposed to intimidation and threats in exchange for a bribe. I was pulled over on the N1 outside the second toll gates [going towards Bloem], and ordered to remove my number plates. That's how it started. At the Parys station I was lucid enough to call a high ranking officer whose name and number was on the wall - and upon his arrival won my impounded car back and my freedom. The result of these abuses by South Africa's finest is one or two members of my own family have come to doubt my version of events. Can you imagine what a media splash does to one's prospects?

Here's more from the same Gill Moodie article:

Quite frankly, this story is made in journalism heaven. Not only do we have a player nicknamed "Bees" from the country's most popular rugby franchise, the Blue Bulls, charged with the murder of a policemen but it appears that Mohale was killed allegedly with Roux's bare hands. And because this is South Africa it will become charged with racial sensitivities: the police officer was black while Roux is the quintessential rugby-playing Afrikaner: a 120kg giant from the far-flung Northern Cape.

In addition, Roux has a good legal team who will know how to fight a criminal case - and influence the media to best effect - and already all sorts of peculiar questions are surfacing: why, for instance, did the other policemen not see the assault and what's with the man who allegedly went on a spending spree with Roux's credit card shortly after the alleged assault? Then there's the owner of the strip club - picturesquely called the Flamingo at which Roux was - or possibly not before the assault - who has told the media that Pretoria's finest were in the habit of blackmailing his clients when they emerged from his club. Lastly, Mogale appears to have been under three separate internal investigations by the police before his death.

Breaching journalistic ethics

It's a compelling story and the public will follow it with great interest but is the public interest such that the media was justified in naming Roux on the Friday and weekend before he appeared in court on Monday?

Read the rest.

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