Media called ‘racist’ and ‘biased’ for naming Pitch Black Afro

Some have compared the case to that of ‘Dros rapist’ Nicholas Ninow. A media law expert, however, says there are legal differences.

Some have taken to Twitter to voice their view that the way the Pitch Black Afro case is currently being handled by South African media shows bias when compared to the case of Dros rapist Nicholas Ninow.

While media did not initially name Ninow, some news outlets – The Citizen included – had already reported that the man arrested for the alleged murder of the rapper’s spouse is Pitch Black Afro (real name Thulani Ngcobo) himself prior to his initial court appearance.

The South African published a story on Thursday stating that the differences in how the two cases were handled by media were down to legality rather than bias.

Media law expert Helene Eloff agrees, and gave The Citizen a detailed explanation of the legal differences between the two cases.

Her comments sent to The Citizen, in their entirety, are as follows:

“Nicholas Ninow was not identified in the media between his arrest and court appearance. Pitch Black Afro was identified after his arrest. Why? Because Ninow is white and Pitch Black Afro is black? Because the latter is a celebrity?

Neither.

READ MORE: Pitch Black Afro charged with murder

It is all about the charges they face. Ninow is an alleged sex offender, whereas the rapper faces a murder charge.

The Criminal Procedure Act bars the media from publishing details of sex offence cases before the accused has [pleaded]. This includes a ban on making his identity known. The same does not apply to murder suspects – no statute bars the media from naming them at any stage during investigations or after their arrests.

The constitutional justification and fairness of this differentiation [have] been questioned publicly in 2018 – The Citizen published an opinion piece pointing out that the effect of the law was unfair.

Why does the media tend to wait for court appearances before naming accused in general?

This was once general policy and is based on a risk consideration. It often happens that someone gets arrested and released without ever being charged in court. A news service that names and shames such a person for a crime he is never charged with, will likely get sued for defamation – successfully.

The police may refuse to name suspects prior to their court appearances and do so regularly. However, if confirmation of an arrest has been sought reliably, the police’s refusal to name a suspect does not necessarily ban the media from identifying the suspect.”

Although Ninow has still not pleaded, media houses have decided to name him following a court order allowing the media to photograph him in court. Read more here.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)

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