I am ashamed today of being Mauritian. I didn’t ever think that was possible… truly. I am ashamed precisely since Sunday, since the moment I discovered in shock and sadness that something that calls itself a ‘newspaper’ in Mauritius has managed to stoop to the lowest, lowest form of what can no longer be called ‘journalism’ but plain and simple business.
I can’t even imagine what the Harte and Mc Areavey families must be enduring after having to ostensibly go through this ordeal all over again, only days after they got no justice over Michaela’s death. The Taoiseach (which is the title for Prime Minister or Head of Government in Irish Gaelic and not part of the incumbent’s name as reported by some journalists here), was quick to react about the horror of publishing these photos. My friends in Ireland posted on my social media page to speak of the super bad press this is causing Mauritius right now. But let alone this, all this has brought me to think about the way media has behaved around this case.
Before these horrid photos appeared, I was shocked at the way the verdict of the trial of her alleged murderers was covered. One media focused strictly on the ‘victorious’ aspect of the verdict, running a reaction of Michaela’s families only halfway through its morning, high-audience broadcast. I later understood that the families did not want to speak to Mauritian press after the verdict, and understandably so, but that in no way justified the contempt with which their sentiments were trampled on through the publication of all this ‘joy’ over someone’s murderer(s) still running free. Earlier in the course of the trial, journalists trumpeted John Mc Areavey’s testimonial in court, including the sordid and superfluous details of him having “gone to buy his wife a tampon” on the day he found her dead. Let’s not even mention the ‘media’ which published a video clip of a couple thought to be John and Michaela on the day of the murder before what was to be included as evidence even got to the courtroom… which of course got them to be severely spurned by the judge.
I know media very well. I know what makes a newsroom tick and I can tell a newsworthy story when I see one. I understand the needs for survival in a media environment that is not only small, but competitive and limited in a variety of terms. Everybody runs for the same news and wants to get the exclusive angle on it… but nothing justifies publishing a dead body on a front page just to sell… not in Mauritius! This is a real case of shame, one that has to bring media to reflect on its values, before the authorities do so on their behalf. I think, however, that it might be too late. I have a feeling this is going to be the much-sought excuse for clamping down on the press some have been looking for.
I may have a piece of advice for journalists who happen to read this: find real stories… the ones that change people’s lives. Only dead fish go with the flow, a saying goes… so go against it. Don’t do what the competitor is doing… find something it’s not doing. Dig deep into what you receive as face value information… get to know the background, go behind the scenes. Check and cross-check your sources, facts and figures. Your job is to give information that matters, not to run stories that shame your people and your country.