The disclosure of the identity of a minor involved in a court case in the United Kingdom is expressly forbidden. Is it too much to expect the same ethical considerations, when the UK media is covering similar legal issues from elsewhere in the world?
Almost inevitably it seems, that would depend on the definition of elsewhere. If it is from a fellow industrialized country, the same standards apply but if we are talking about an African country, then the same ethical standards need not apply.
A very emotive episode of Dispatches, on Channel 4, disturbingly titled, 'The Lost Girls of South Africa, is a good case in point.
Whereas the producers did a super job in highlighting the plight of young girls at risk of sexual assault by close relatives and neighbours, the depiction of the victims was utterly deplorable.
It mattered not that the girls, aged between 11 and 13 were minors in every sense. Subjecting them to having to describe how they were sexually molested on camera, was humiliatingly inhuman, cruel and in very bad taste.
But the obsession of capturing the little ones crying on tape seemed to have gotten the better of the producers. And so the already traumatized souls had to endure being filmed almost around the clock, as they struggled to deal with their physical, psychological, social and emotional scarring.
UK media unethical misadventure in South Africa
The crowning low-point in the story, in my opinion, had to do with the absolute discarding of the girls' absolute right to privacy. No attempt is made to conceal their identity.
Their interviews include very detailed close-ups and for even one shocking scene, you get to see one sexually abused girl getting the results of her HIV test, in the company of her mother.
Is it because of the debilitating poverty or inability to enforce written down laws in many African countries that makes them so vulnerable to all manner of attacks by the western media?
And one cannot also help but question the motive behind the timing of this particular Dispatches. A couple of weeks prior to South Africa hosting the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, football's World Cup. Another stab in the back to stem Africa's progress?
Yes the victims need all the help they can get and the exposure of the weak judicial system in South Africa will go a long way in piling pressure on the government there to implement mush needed reforms.
But the survivors of the harrowing ordeals still deserve and should be accorded all their inalienable rights as human beings.