'Facebook racist story' IS relevant, says Sunday Times

The Sunday Times came in for criticism on Monday for publishing an outdated front-page story and image of a “Facebook racist”.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.”

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

Client Media Releases

Different routes for tackling matric through distance learning
UKZN specialist all set for US study trip
IIE Distance/Online learning at Rosebank College