The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, committed one of the biggest sins against journalism ethics by publishing the names of eight alleged victims of rape without their consent.
The Observer published the names as part of a report on the start of a trial of an alleged serial rapist. In its report the Observer listed the women’s names and details of their attacks in what it called ‘a sneak preview’ of the case. It gave their names and details of how each attack took place. The newspaper named one woman and revealed she was a virgin.
In all of the attacks violence including a knife was used. In all cases the alleged rapist did not use a condom.
By publishing the names of the women, the Observer broke Article 15 of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) code of ethics on Survivors of Sexual Assault which states, ‘Journalists shall avoid identifying survivors of sexual assault or any information that may lead to the identification of the survivor.’
Journalists across the world generally agree that it violates the rights of rape victims to publish their names without their consent.
The Observer has been under attack for its lack of journalism standards in the recent past. In a review of press freedom in Swaziland, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) called the Observer, a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.
The Observer regularly breaks Article 1 of the SNAJ code Article 1which deals with people’s right to information. The article says, ‘The duty of every journalist is to write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend the truth. A journalist should make adequate inquiries, do cross-checking of facts in order to provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information.’
The newspaper is on public record to say that its ‘collective stand as a newspaper is that the integrity of Swaziland as a democratic State and His Majesty King Mswati III as the legitimate leader of the Swazi nation, must never be compromised in any way.’