Dina and the murdered baby

April 18, 2007 at 8:42 am (Uncategorized)

If you’ve been living under a technologically warped rock you’d not know the details of the sensational trial unfolding in the Cape High Court. It’s known as the “Dina trial” or the “Baby Jordan trial” depending on the news media presenting the story. Never mind that there are five people in the dock. Nope, it’s the Dina Rodrigues trial. Anyway.
Today Dina’s lawyer argued she’d been given a raw deal by the media. Usually I’d argue that’s just a convenient excuse for those who’ve dipped their finger in the criminal pie but not so
in this case.
Because, see, I was there. I sat in the press gallery in the beginning of this trial and I was shocked to my little ethical toes.
What follows is an edited version of an opinion piece I wrote for newspapers at the time (Feb 2006). You decide. 

“Facts certainly shouldn’t get in the way of a good story. An appropriate line for the way journalists have been reporting on this trial’. The rules are simple: strive for objectivity, publish what happened in court, keep opinion out of it, don’t get involved with the ‘victim’ or the ‘accused’. Yet many of the journalists have forgotten this.
How objective can reports be if you’re sharing snacks, hugging and kissing the Nortons and telling them you know she (Dina) is guilty and that the trial is just a waste of time? How professional is it to say you’re ‘on their side’ while in court?
The feeling of horror grew as comments flew quick and fast: ‘She’s definitely guilty’; ‘The Nortons are the Forresters of SA and the Rodrigues’s are the Spectras. Ha, ha, ha.’; ‘They can just get done now, we know she’s guilty.’
This bias is undoubtedly coming through in their reports. If you’ve read all the newspaper reports and watched all the TV broadcasts, you’d notice inaccuracies and an overwhelming sense of ‘trial by media’. I expected tabloid journalists to hook onto the scandalous bits but ‘respectable’ newspapers falling prey to salacious details and no accuracy?
If you’ve read all reports coming out of the trial you’d see stark differences between the right and wrong versions. For example, a newspaper reported Wilson did not deny a claim he wanted to kidnap Jordan because of maintenance issues with her mother. This was not said in court. He did deny it and other newspapers reported this. Misquoting and quoting out of context is also easy to detect.
One report reads he ‘loves her’ and ‘her face lit up’, another reads he ‘loved her’ and ‘she stared ahead’ or ‘bowed her head as he spoke’. My version: He loved her and she bowed her head, glancing up now and then.
The only objective, accurate reports came from journalists not fraternising with the Nortons. These are the reports from only a few journalists out of a big bunch. Sad but true.”  

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4 Comments

  1. MrsM said,

    It’s like I said to you earlier…those ethical guidelines are being taken for granted

  2. tbhanks said,

    I don’t think they even thought there was anything wrong with it. So, these days, whenever I read a news report about what happens in court I usually check the SAPA version and Die Burger version because those ones are usually more factually correct and devoid of emotion.

  3. Justice For Jordan said,

    No matter what the verdict she is getting off too easy. She should be dragged outside by her hair and slowly beaten to death. Then her body should hang on display for other would-be baby killers to see.

  4. tbhanks said,

    Whoa there Justice for Jordan. Wouldn’t that make you as bad as you say she is? After all, murder is murder, no matter which way you look at it…And that aside, it should still not be the journalist’s job to tell people she’s guilty. That’s for the judge to decide.

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