Pretoria - The acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) Lt-Gen Yolisa Matakata has expressed shock and dismay at the Saturday Dispatch's front page article on Saturday titled "Hawks boss in sex scandal”, and called for an apology from the newspaper.
"The newspaper article, which quoted two Hawks senior managers, has not only embarrassed the organisation but also attempted to humiliate and damage the integrity of two alleged sexual harassment victims," Matakata said on Sunday.
"Deplorably, the victims’ identities were carelessly splashed across the newspaper without their consent; undermining their right to privacy, their personal safety, and endeavouring to misdirect the internal investigation which has already commenced," she said.
Matakata said violence against women constituted a violation of basic human rights and was an obstacle to achieving the objectives of equality and development. Dealing with the victims of sexual harassment, the media should take ownership of their responsibility while dealing with such sensitive cases. Most victims underwent enormous mental and emotional burden. The insensitivity by the media while reporting their case could damage the state of the victim.
The media should maintain a balance and take special care while reporting any case of sexual harassment in society, irrespective of whether it was of public interest.
"The need for the Saturday Dispatch [to display] accountability and professionalism in reporting cannot be emphasised enough. The freedom of the media, like any other freedom recognised under the Constitution, has to be exercised within sensible boundaries," Matakata said.
“With great power comes great responsibility as embodied in the Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media. Section 5 subsection 5.2 states that the media has the right, and indeed the duty, to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest. This right and duty must, however, be balanced against the obligation not to publish material that amounts to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence, or advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm,” she said.
She also placed on record that "the opinions and views raised in the newspaper article did not represent the principles" of the Hawks.
“The way the report was constructed has indirectly attributed blame. The Daily Dispatch must apologise to the victims for humiliating and putting their personal safety at risk. As management we are accountable to our members and we are committed to afford them whatever assistance they require. We are also keen to see to it that the internal investigations continue without any influence of any kind,” Matakata said.
The newspaper reported on Saturday that Eastern Cape Hawks provincial head Maj-Gen Nyameko Nogwanya is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal after two senior Hawks staff members accused him of sexually harassing them.