Crime and the me­dia

Finweek English Edition - - Letters - GULLIBLE MEM­BER OF THE PUB­LIC

SOUTH AFRICA’S cur­rently high crime rate has over the past few days been high on ev­ery­one’s list of is­sues that Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki needed to be strongly vo­cal on in his State of the Na­tion ad­dress at the open­ing of Par­lia­ment.

My main is­sue of con­tention is not to dis­pute the fact that SA in­deed has an overex­ces­sive crime rate – be­ing ranked 10th for the high­est to­tal crime per capita (out of 60 coun­tries) by the United Na­tions Of­fice for Drugs and Crime is by no means ac­cept­able by any­one’s stan­dard – but with the man­ner in that it was pre­sented by the gen­eral me­dia.

With ref­er­ence to your Ed­i­tor’s Note: To My Mind (8 Fe­bru­ary) state­ments such as “…steps to deal with the wors­en­ing crime sit­u­a­tion” and claims that things have “wors­ened in SA” present the gen­eral at­ti­tude that me­dia cov­er­age has had on the crime sit­u­a­tion in SA. I for one be­lieve that the me­dia has the power to shape pub­lic opin­ion and thus needs to act with due dili­gence. Publi­ca­tions such as yours hold high es­teem in pub­lic and aca­demic are­nas and thus such afore­men­tioned state­ments are viewed as fact. And, as such, I should hope to be­lieve that SA’s “wors­en­ing crime sit­u­a­tion” is ac­tu­ally mea­sured on ac­tual crime data ei­ther col­lected by your­selves or other in­sti­tu­tions.

Just for in­ter­est sake, stud­ies (at least those I could ac­cess) show that SA’s crime rate has been steadily de­creas­ing year-on-year. The latest sta­tis­tics I could find (I’ll ad­mit, maybe con­strained) for 2004 gen­er­ally (em­pha­sis on gen­er­ally) con­cur with the lat­ter sen­ti­ment. With the ex­cep­tions of il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms, shoplift­ing and driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence, all other crimes have de­creased.

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