Nicole Johnston
Nicole Johnston

Are privacy and dignity only for the powerful?

I am incandescent with rage this Monday morning! (Now, my colleagues may claim this is not an unusual occurrence, but my theory is that if you’re not outraged, then you’re probably not paying attention!)

The source of my ire is the front page of this morning’s Daily Sun. I’ve never really considered it a proper newspaper anyway, but the millions who read it every day clearly do. Infamous for its xenophobic headlines and gruesome front-page pictures, this tabloid has reverted to the racist old formula so dearly held by newspaper groups in the 1960s: that black readers are only interested in soccer, sex and witchcraft. And even though this is a paper that runs headlines like “Sangoma turned my penis into a python”, its aptitude for producing nauseating front pages still has the power to shock.

This morning’s front-page headline screams “TRAGEDY!” and tells how 13 school kids were killed in a road accident. The Daily Sun chose to illustrate it with a full-colour picture of a dead child dangling out the window of a mangled taxi, ribbons of blood streaking the doors. No doubt it will claim the picture aims to warn the public of the dangers of unsafe driving or some such twaddle, conveniently sidestepping any notions of ethics or decency.

And will the proponents of media regulation who leapt so nimbly to defend the “privacy” and “dignity” of the health minister now step up on behalf of the families of these children?

When the Sunday Times broke the story about Manto’s alleged pilfering and dipsomania, the ANC Women’s League rushed to “condemn the unethical and immoral way in which the media has dealt with personal matters relating to Comrade Manto”.

“We view what the media is doing as invasion of privacy,” said the league’s statement issued from Luthuli House.

Do the spin doctors who so assiduously protect the rights of the rich and powerful not care when the broken bodies of poor children from Limpopo are flaunted on a newspaper’s front pages to sell a few more copies? I’d put money on this disgusting display not raising a peep from those who rush to excoriate the media each time a politically sensitive story is broken, selectively citing notions of “culture” and “respect” to try to draw fire away from their overlords.