Dispatch publishes major probe into Somali killings
by Kenichi Serino
The articles are being published online concurrently with the print edition of the newspaper, under the series headline “Dying to live”. The newspaper’s lead story, headlined “Why I killed”, is based on an interview with a man jailed for the murder of Somalis.
In a front-page editorial, the paper wrote South Africans were giving the lie to the constitutional promise that the country belongs to all who live in it, united in diversity. "Instead, we behave like dogs snarling at a suburban gate when strangers come to call. Our series exposes the prejudice and hatred we hold in our hearts against those who are not one of ‘us’.
"Government policy is utterly inadequate, the system corrupt, and political leadership on this question is practically non-existent – and why, after all, should politicians care?" the editorial asks.
The comprehensive online package includes “the diary of our team as they lived in with Somalis in Mdantsane, video packages, picture slideshows with narration, interactive maps and other elements”, said Daily Dispatch editor Andrew Trench.
“I think the online stuff [will] have a much more powerful package,” he said.
Trench said that his paper did not have a lot of resources for online journalism. Much of the online content was designed using free applications such as Google Maps.
“It’s a small team,” he said, “We don’t have a lot of resources for the Internet.”
“Everybody involved in the project saw it as a multidimensional package.”
The articles are the product of four months of work. Daily Dispatch reporters got access into a prison to interview a man who was convicted of murdering two Somalis. The paper also sent a reporter, Thanduxolo Jika, to live with Somali shopkeepers for two weeks and then spend a third week traveling with them.
In the two weeks he lived in Mdantsane, Jika witnessed the treatment of Somalis at the hands of their neighbours. Later, he traveled with the Somalis to Home Affairs, to renew their permits, where he witnessed first-hand corruption on the part of Home Affairs officials.
Trench said that the immediate project’s work will be published in three days starting today. But the paper intends to cover the subject heavily over the next three months. Next week, the Daily Dispatch will publish a story of another community of Somali immigrants who are well integrated into South Africa as a “bookend”.
The project was thanks in part to a grant from the Taco Kuiper fund. The fund hands out an annual award, as well as grants for media organizations wanting to do investigative journalism. The grants are provided by the Valley Trust in partnership with Wits journalism. The Daily Dispatch’s articles on Somali immigrants will be the first published as a result of grants.
“It sounds extremely exciting. It makes us feel gratified that the grant system can provide for this kind of work,” said Anton Harber, the Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University and convener of the Taco Kuiper panel of judges.
Trench said that while the grant’s funding was only a small part of the series success, the very existence of the Taco Kuiper fund encouraged his team to do investigative journalism into the conditions of Somali immigrants.
“That the Taco Kuiper exists, it allowed us to focus on this as a subject.”
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