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#MobJustice, media freedom and the #DrosRape

NEWSWATCH: Court reporting is notoriously one of the most strictly regulated fields of journalism, which is why media celebrated this morning when granted an application to take still pictures of the #DrosRape accused.
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Acumen Media’s seven-day analysis confirms that South African social media feeds were filled with violent images arising from the #DrosRape incident.

Social media's #MobJustice took hold following graphic scenes from a video taken in the bathroom of the Dros Silverton restaurant, in which a seven-year-old girl was raped.
This despite Memeburn reporting that government had taken to its own official Twitter account late last Thursday, asking social media users to not repost the clip.

As a result, #DrosRape was one of the most-read news stories of last week – third only to #HeritageDay and #WeedLegalised.


Little wonder then that the case’s court proceedings – the accused's second appearance – were a big talking point today, with a strong police presence, and protesters demanding justice outside the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.



The accused has still not pleaded, so his name is meant to be withheld from publication until he officially pleads in court – this despite some media already naming the accused and posting images of his face.

No bail, fears of mob justice


The accused did not apply for bail – Times Live reports he has sustained several injuries during his arrest, and will remain in custody until the case resumes on 1 November.

Fears of mob justice prevail. But a highlight from News24’s live feed of updates from this morning’s court case was that of the court granting a media application to take still pictures of the accused, both before and after proceedings.

Mail & Guardian confirms that Magistrate Mali Mokwena ruled that the media may take still photographs 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after court proceedings.

The accused promptly put on a hoodie, but some managed a quick snap before he did so:


Attorney for the accused, Rian Du Plessis of Legal Aid, argued against the application, stating the court must decide between the rights of the media to report and the accused's rights to privacy and a fair trial.


News24 journalist Alex Mitchley tweeted that Du Plessis eventually conceded that there are indeed pictures and a video of the accused that have been circulated on social media, but says those images don't depict the accused in the court environment.

Ultimately, the State said the application was too late, particularly as the pictures and even name of the accused had already been widely distributed, but agreed that initial photographs identifying the accused should not have been taken and published.

Unfortunately, all did not go to plan for the media photographers at the court:

As a result of the 'still images only' ruling, video of today’s proceedings was also denied.

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According to The South African, the accused will not be handing over his cell phone to investigators, as he “does not want to incriminate himself”.

But Times Live reports the state still wants to launch an application to obtain the cell phone for “forensic downloading”.

Only time will tell how important a role social media plays in this highly watched case.

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About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews (@leigh_andrews) is Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at Bizcommunity.com and one of our Lifestyle contributors. She's also on the 2018 Women in Marketing: Africa advisory panel, was an #Inspiring50 nominee, and can be reached at ...
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