Haji Mohamed Dawjee
Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Beeld’s irresponsible journalism leads to irresponsible conversation

Let’s talk about the front page of the Beeld newspaper today and the way journalists need to be held accountable for the kind of conversation they inspire.

The cover story in the paper is about a father who was upset about the relationship his daughter was having — he then went ahead and shot his daughter’s boyfriend and his dad, dead.

To illustrate this Beeld lifted a picture from the daughter’s Facebook page. She is in a bikini, posing on a motorcycle. Three things come to mind here: What kind of reaction is Beeld trying to instigate? What does this picture have to do with the story? And how is what she is wearing and posing on lending to the relevance of the story?

Beeld cover2

I have no doubt the paper and whoever chose that picture surely had options. Where is the main picture of the father? Why isn’t the killer the lead picture? You think that going to someone’s Facebook page and digging and prodding for a (low-res picture no less) of a woman in her bikini is a smart, clever move? Is this journalism? Again, it adds nothing to the story.

If the paper’s intention was to suggest that women clad in bikinis posing on motorcycles are what make men lose their shit and behave barbarically, then well done. You have contributed to the false, archaic, loose-ended and obtuse theories of rape in a country where terrible things happen. Did you even cover the Anene Booysen story? Or is it because the woman is white and so it doesn’t matter?

Not only have you sold papers here but you have also gone to the extent of posting all this on your Facebook page. Let me spell this out for you: By doing so you have contributed to the flaming fires of the ignorant. You have provided no reason or justification for this on your part (I assure you, try as you might, there is no legitimate reason for this picture) and so now, it’s like the blind, leading the blind. Have you seen the comments on your Facebook page?

“Ek weet nie waaroor die storie gaan nie, maar die jong dametjie het geen selfrespek om so op ‘n koerant te vertoon nie. Slaan haar gatvelle af.” — I don’t know what the story is about, but the young lady has no self-respect to appear like that in a newspaper. Beat her backside raw.

“En ek sit en sé vir myself dat die jonge dame wat nou half kaal pryk in Beeld, met haar onskuldige gesiggie, hom in hulle huis toegelaat het. Miskien kom sy nou tot beginning!” — And I’m sitting here thinking to myself that this young lady, who is appearing naked in Beeld, with her innocent face, allowed him into their house. Maybe now she’ll come to her senses.

“Lyk eerder of die meisie haarself nou adverteer. Met haar pa in die tronk sal sy seker moet begin vir haarself zorg.” — Rather looks like this young girl is advertising herself. With her dad in jail she’ll probably have to look after herself.

“Lyk maar na n tert!” — Looks like a tart.

I assure you, these are just four such choice comments. There are several more.

You are supposed to be an accountable provider of news that is informative and responsible commentary that constructively lends to the overall discourse in a country that faces debate in all corners of democracy, human rights and the depiction of the sexes in a much, much broader conversation.

Instead, in this case, you have done the opposite. You have once again (because this ill-fitting choice has made the front page of your paper before — again, for no informative reason whatsoever), cast a woman, willy-nilly, as the sole provider of all that is wrong in society — of everything that can go wrong. Because what? She doesn’t dress conservatively enough for you? Or your readers? And this is a way to inspire change? Wrong.

What? Women only make the front cover when and where stereotypes can be perpetuated? When there is a degree of humiliation involved? Where there is an opportunity for degradation or where they’re instigators of crimes and injustices by mere insinuation? Better yet, only when they are victims? That said, even victims need to be portrayed in a way that insinuates that they were “asking for it”? Only in this light may they be cast? Get a new lamp, you are living in the dark!

Do you even have female representation on your editorial team when it comes to making choices like this? Or is it just a “let the chips fall where they may”, laugh it off, boys locker-room kind of situation?

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