Gender and Justice: Police “shoddy” investigations exposed

Date: October 4, 2011
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Name of article: The face of injustice

Name of journalist: Alfred Moselakgomo

Name of publication: Sowetan

Date: 12 September 2011

Country: South Africa

Theme: Gender violence, justice system

Skills: Perspective and sources

Genre: News

GEM Classification: Gender Aware with missed opportunity

A 5.6% increase in the number of women murdered last year shows that law enforcers still have a daunting task to make sure that women’s right to life is protected. This calls on the police to provide enough security and making sure that justice takes its course on everyone infringing upon this right. On the contrary, the police seem not to be doing enough. This case study analyses a newspaper article, The face of injustice published by the Sowetan that brings to light police miscalculation in a case where a man was set free by the court despite his confession to having murdered his wife.

“The face of injustice” was the headline and it was accompanied by a sub-headline, “shoddy police work sets alleged killer free”. The headline is relevant to the story and it reflects the essence of the story. The headline, in white font colour and on black background, uppercase and bold, showed that the paper gave the story prominence.

Five males and one female were interviewed in the article. This on its own makes the story gender blind. As much as the experts sympathized with the dead woman, the story could have been enriched if the journalist had gone out to seek the voices of female experts and survivors of such gross violence. The reporter sought obvious comments from most of the sources who are experts in the field of law enforcement and justice and never probed further. Similarly, the journalist could have inquired what action would be taken by National Prosecuting Authority since its spokesperson, Advocate Mthunzi Mhanga said that “he was shocked that such a gruesome case could be dismissed”.

Further, including the voices of human and women’s rights activists could have had a positive impact on the story. This is a justice issue and at all cost “the man deserves to rot in jail”. Getting the views of these activists would probably ignite issues of appealing against the court dismissal and calling for thorough investigations on the matter. This would ultimately give what the bereaved family deserves, justice.

Overall, no sexiest or any language conveying biases or stereotypes were used in article. Terms like spokesperson and officer were used to identify authorities referred to.

Visual images
Two pictures of the deceased before and after she got burnt were used. However, a picture showing the deceased battling for life on a hospital bed dominated on the article compared to the other one. Considering the pain the bereaved family is/was going through, the paper could have desisted from using such a picture because it is in a very bad taste and can affect people with a nervous disposition.

Story angle and perspective
The article focused in bringing out the law enforcers blunder. However, the piece was shallow because it left some unanswered questions and reported the issue without probing views that could lead to justice on the matter. In playing its watchdog-role to the society, the media should not merely report on issues but also help in finding solutions to societal problems. Gender violence is a serious problem and the media missed out on an opportunity to provide gender sensitive reporting. The article also missed out views of human and women rights activists who could have positively impacted on the story and the issue at stake. The way the story has been told does not encourage women and men to report on cases of violence.

Training exercise
– What ethical issues should be considered when using a picture in a story?
– What ethical issues should be taken into consideration when reporting on gender based violence?
– What is the importance of using wide range of sources in the story?
– List some of the law enforcement experts in your country that the journalist should have contacted?

Other training resources
Gender based violence: Gauteng Research Project

The “I” Stories: Polygamy-the heart of the matter

Gender and Media Progress Study-Chapter five

Download : 13588_the_face_of_injustice_sowetan_120911.jpg

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