'Facebook racist story' IS relevant, says Sunday Times

The Sunday Times has come in for criticism on Monday for publishing an outdated front-page story and image of a "Facebook racist".

The Sunday Times came in for criticism on Monday for publishing an outdated front-page story and image of a “Facebook racist”. The paper insists the story and photograph—taken from a Facebook page—of a white man with a hunting rifle kneeling next to the body a young black child, remains relevant.

The article, headlined, “Wanted: Facebook racist”, tells how the South African Police Service had launched an “immediate investigation” into the matter, and called for the man in the photograph—or anyone who recognised him—to come forward.

The photo appears on the Facebook page of “Eugene TerrorBlanche”.

The article also included comment from two Cabinet ministers and several children’s rights organisations, decrying the image.

In the article, the Sunday Times makes no mention of previous reports of the image appearing on Facebook, even though their sister publication—the Times daily—ran a story about the incident in 2008.

Eyewitness News broke the story in May 2008, which was followed up by the Mail & Guardian in October 2008.

The latest report was picked up by new agency Agence-France Presse as well as the Washington Post.

The article sparked outrage from some readers.

Media commentator Eusebius McKaiser questioned the reporting and editing processes at the paper.

“So it turns out the front page story of the Sunday Times is years old. Conclusion?” The systems at [Sunday Times publisher] Avusa failed,” he posted on his Facebook wall.

Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley responded, arguing the article remained newsworthy.

“Eusebius—The fact remains that this image has been published NOW, in 2011. We reported on the fact that the police want to know the identity of the person/persons who published the image along with a series of recent racist remarks. There has been no ‘system failure’, except that Facebook allows such images to continue to be published,” he said in reply to McKaiser.

“Last week Sunday Times invents DA R1bn contract story. Now makes right wing idiot pic famous. How good can paper be if Facebook is a source?,” tweeted comedian John Vlismas.

Hartley later tweeted: “Our story is about an extremely racist image being published on Facebook now, in 2011. We must find the person who published this image.”

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