Trial By Media and Public Opinion

The Anni Dewani murder case is in its fourth week of development. Like many of you, I have been following this story closely. It is deplorable that a young, intelligent beautiful woman’s life was cut short. I had initially decided to refrain from sharing my views about this story mainly due to the lack of credible information available.  I was compelled to write about it, because of the comments and opinions I have read regarding Anni’s case.

Anni’s murder has brought me to some realisations. One, that at times human beings lack compassion, we sometimes have ‘sheep mentality’ lapping up any news and information from the media and government and substituting it as our own opinion. I have yet to read a comment on the blogs, newspapers Facebook and Twitter sites that is not a regurgitat of the information shared by our media. Have we lost our ability to think critically for ourselves? It could be that for so long our opinions and thoughts have been influenced by the media that we no longer know how to assess information critically.

Many South Africans have stated on these forums that Shrien has tarnished South Africa’s reputation. I am not too worried about South Africa’s reputation. South Africans need to take responsibility for the state our nation is in just like any other country with problems. Only then can we start to fix our issues. We need to own up to what transpired and stop using Shrien as a scapegoat for what happened. Anni’s murder is a reflection of all South Africans and we all as a nation need to do some major introspection as to why these young men on trial and one already convicted, committed this crime. Many South Africans who have commented on this case say that they are proud that South Africans are uniting on this issue and protecting its name. I would suggest that this unity be focused on trying to find ways to address our crime issues. When there is a crisis, we tend to focus on the wrong things and fail to address the root cause of our problems. What we should be discussing is how we can ensure that something like this never happens again. We should also remember that there are thousands of South Africans who are victims of crime and their cases are never solved.

Why is it so easy for people to succumb to evil because of greed and money? This is not a new phenonmenon in South Africa, I have witnessed car guards in Pretoria stabbing each other with beer bottles over five rand. Why don’t we use the energy of baying for Shrien’s blood to start initiatives that will deal with the social issues our country is afflicted with? The three men who have been charged with this murder all seemed to be raised in a single parent household, some by their grandmothers. Our communities have failed us in that we seem to produce too many young men like those charged with Anni Dewani’s murder. We should petition the department of education to start a subject in schools, which should be examinable, called Morality and Ethics. If our children are not receiving these lessons at home, our schools should provide them with such guidance.

We all want the perpetuators of this evil crime to face the consequences of their actions.  Our desire for justice should not drive us to convict Shrien who is still innocent until proven guilty in a court of  law.  I would add that regardless of his guilt or innocence what good would it do to bay for his blood and spew such bile? The facts in this case have not been brought to light, most of our assumptions have been fuelled by hearsay and leaks  communicated by our media.

We have all been affected by this case, many are angry. Wishing ill on another person, guilty or not, is a poor reflection on you as a person. It is so easy to throw stones when we are sitting on the fence. If this happened to someone you loved I assure you that your reaction would be different. Where is our compassion? At times, we need to think how damaging our words can be. ‘The Anni Dewani (Hindocha) Case’ Facebook page and all other similar forums  are a travesty and an insult to her memory.  Many of those commenting on the case have already decided on the fate of Shrien Dewani before the courts have heard the case. In a trial by the media and public opinion, Shrien Dewani is guilty. As rational human beings, let us wait to hear what really transpired before offering our opinion.

In the meantime, let us try to honour Anni Dewani’s memory by being respectful of other’s opinions on the forums we are discussing her case in. Remember that though freedom of speech is our constitutional right we all have a responsibility and should think before we speak. When all is said and done we will eventually forget about this case and be consumed by another scandal, crime etc. Those who will have to deal with this for the rest of their lives are the Hindocha and Dewani families. For that reason let us watch what we say.

Kate Tutu

Social Entrepreneur,Business Consultant, Editor of Feint & Margin, a young woman who's passionate about Africa's people and development.

9 thoughts on “Trial By Media and Public Opinion

  • December 11, 2010 at 3:34 am
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    So the exact same thing you are accusing people of doing, you do by telling people how to think and express themselves. Do you work for Max Clifford and who gave you the right to decide what is an insult and what is not? Kindly step off your high horse and realise every human in a free nation is entitled to an opinion and freedom of speech and expression. Just like you have shown with this oxymoron you call writing.

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    • December 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm
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      @Devils Advocate – While we encourage debate on the articles written on this website, personal attacks will not be entertained.

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      • December 12, 2010 at 12:56 am
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        I am also shocked at the vitryolic comments written about Shrien. People are just coming to conclusions after listening to the media. People do not fully know him, his background and the circumstances

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        • December 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm
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          Please note Mr Dewani’s late wife’s family lost love one and has cost them lots money for the wedding and therefore require justice. Mr Dewani’s statements and conduct since the murder has not been acceptable for a hindu.

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  • December 12, 2010 at 6:10 pm
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    Thank you for your comments Devil’s Advocate they are interesting. I’m not going to be drawn into an argument with you because I believe it draws attention away from the points I’ve raised in my writing which you’ve described as an oxymoron. Perhaps you could offer your views on these points such as the issues of crime in our country and why it is that we produce men and women that are easily influenced to commit evil deeds due to greed and money? In addition, what we as a community can do to address these problems in our society? I do believe that personal attacks on people whether it is towards Shrien (guilty or innocent) or anybody commenting on these forums are not right and I stand by that statement and remark. I’ve read comments on these forums saying that he should die and get gang raped in Polsmoor prison. Wishing ill on another no matter what you’ve perceived him to have done shows a lack of compassion. Comment on the case, offer your view points and analysis. Back it up with how you came to these conclusions, quoting news articles that has not yet been proven as fact and presenting it as fact on the forum is premature and shows, that we are not thinking for ourselves. That is constructive debate. I’ve read the most outlandish statements on these forums none of which can be backed up. The Hindocha and Dewani families are reading these posts. You have every right not to agree with my sentiments. It is a free nation but with these freedoms come great responsibility. At times I feel we forget that. You are entitled to your opinion, but like everything in this world what you say and do impacts and affects others. No man is an island. I am merely highlighting that. Any thoughts on the issues I raised about South African society and the moral decay that is engulfing our nation? How do we begin to solve these social issues?

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    • December 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm
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      If you are feeling like I’m attacking you then that’s your view, just presenting a different side to what I’ve been reading. Like I said in the beginning of the article it is my view take or leave it that’s up to you. If this is all you took from my article and have nothing else to say then we’ll leave it at that.

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  • December 13, 2010 at 8:34 am
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    Correct – this person’s writing is like everybody elses – an opinion. Who died and made her the Judge? People are entitled to their opinion’s, as are you, but trying to force-feed people into your way of thinking is absurd. You have thoughts and opinions of your own, and you’re entitled to share them, not however, at the risk of coming across as if you’re better than anybody else, which, between the lines, is the EXACT way you do.

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  • December 24, 2010 at 11:21 am
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    Before anything was mentioned in the media with regards to Shrien being implicated in Anni’s murder, I suspected him based on the following “logic”:

    1) Where have you ever heard of “hijackers” letting only some people go unless their intention was to rape the female party and even then, they would have killed the others to avoid identification. Apparently, Ani wasn’t raped?

    2) He left the country almost immediately after the event? Personally, if it were my wife, I would have stayed til the end of time, ESPECIALLY if I were as “flush” as him and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY given that I could assist by identifying the killers.

    3) Who hires an “image polisher” before any accusations are even thrown? If I were innocent, I would tell any accusers to get f*#ked.

    Needless to say, shortly afterwards, he was implicated as a suspect. At least I can then say that I was not influenced by the media, am not a sheep and, can think for myself.

    Having said that and “shared” my reason/opinion/viewpoint on why I feel Shrien is indeed GUILTY, I agree with you in that this one incident does not define our country. Nor should a guilty verdict give us any false sense of security because the fact of the matter is that our BEAUTIFUL country’s crime statistics are unacceptably high and something needs to be done. Lots of somethings need to be done. there are too many things to mention in terms of where taxpayers money should be spent (definately not on outlandish politicians salaries or bailouts of state backed enterprises) or how we as a people should just behave/act in our own homes, setting examples for our youth to follow instead of just taking the easy route and pointing fingers and blame at things of the past.

    Charity begins at home. It aint much but its a good place to start.

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  • January 1, 2011 at 6:23 am
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    Hello Kate. I can’t remember which blog of yours it was, but you were defending Thabo Mbeki’s right to say that HIV does not cause AIDS. Well I would urge u to read the following chapter from a book I’m reading now so you can see the amount of damage and the number of unnecessary deaths Mbeki’s ignorant view has caused in South Africa.
     
    http://www.badscience.net/2009/04/matthias-rath-steal-this-chapter/

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