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Coverage of young girl's killing in Argentina unleashes discussion about journalistic ethics

By Alejandro Martínez

The killing of a 16 year old girl on June 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has captivated national attention for the last three weeks, as well as unfurling a media storm that has now turned into a topic of discussion. Critiques on the media immediately began following coverage of the case and reached their highest level with the publication in an Argentinean daily of several photos of the victim.

Images of the body of Ángeles Rawson in the spot where she was found were published on June 28 by the daily Muy, part of the publishing house Grupo Clarín. The photos were criticized by the victim's father, several journalists, the general public and even the workers union at Grupo Clarín, which stated it was  “in no responsible way for said publication, which we consider to be in poor taste and without journalistic value."

“The photos, published on the (newspaper's) front page and inside of the morning edition, constitute a violation of the privacy of the victim and her family, but also an unnecessary demonstration of bad taste which only serves to feed the morbidness of a high profile case,” said the Journalism Forum of Argentina  (Fopea), condemning also media outlets that republished the pictures.

“Media outlets should consider the possible moral damage such content can cause to the victim's family before publishing, as well the affront it has on a society's common values. In addition, something that should not be that forgotten is that the victim was a minor," added the organization.

The case has turned into one of most talked about topics in the country, both within the media and with the public. In the first seven days of coverage, broadcast and cable channels dedicated a total of 206 hours of programming to the case, reported Television.com.ar.

"I've been covering news involving police matters for ten years, I've been reading about it for much longer.  And I have never seen anything like this," wrote the journalist Javier Sinay in his blog El Identikit.

In past weeks, when the case began to build attention, Fopea also called for journalists to reflect on how they cover crime and criticized some outlets for diffusing information without verifying it, publishing contradictory facts, and unnecessarily invading the privacy of those involved in the case.  This weekend, a TV crew broadcast live from the basement of the apartments where Rawson lived, where the crime is alleged to have happened.

Fopea added that competing for ratings and viewership should not stop from this kind of self-examination.

The Audiovisual Communications Services Authority (Afsca) said to be evaluating the possibility of sanctioning some media outlets after stating that the coverage has "violated the rights of women and girls," according to OnceTrece.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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