Statement on the case of Rosemary NamubiruPublished on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:32
The facts will be argued in court and a judgment will issue. However, there is one aspect that must be addressed: the quality of the media reporting in the immediate aftermath of Rosemary’s arrest. Unhappily, the media engaged in unabashed and unverified sensationalism. Rosemary was branded a “killer”, guilty of maliciously and intentionally attempting to transmit her own HIV infection to a child.
Subsequent to those allegations, the baseless rumour-mongering escalated: various news reports branded Rosemary a fiendish serial offender; a nurse who was mentally ill; a nurse without credentials. It must be noted that the prosecution dropped the attempted murder charge the day the case went to trial. Sadly, we’re convinced that the charge was originally laid because of the media frenzy. And is there now a new charge? Yes: criminal negligence. Attempted murder carries a possible life sentence; criminal negligence carries a maximum of seven years.
It is a matter of grave concern that not a single member of the media, so far as we were able to ascertain, highlighted the dramatically reduced charge. In the upshot, Rosemary’s life has been ruined. No matter the outcome of the trial, the panorama of ferociously intemperate accusation will haunt her and her family forever. But without for a moment diminishing the damage to Rosemary, we must also point out the damage to all people living with HIV and AIDS. This case constitutes a frightening precedent.
Surely it is evident that if the same circumstance had involved an HIV-negative nurse, the media would never have assumed that her intentions were evil. Rosemary has become the subject of a nationwide smear campaign because she is HIV-positive. There is great irony in the reporting of this case.
Uganda has always been the country to which activists, scientists, academics, bureaucrats and politicians turned for inspiration in the fight against AIDS. Everyone has the same regard for the way in which the nation’s leaders and citizens worked together to dramatically reduce prevalence rates and battle stigma. Now, as a result of libelous news reports, the lives of a Ugandan woman and her family have been destroyed and stigma has been revived.
We, the undersigned, make no unjustified demands. We ask only that the media acknowledge and address the injustice it has done to Rosemary Namubiru. International journalistic standards have been grossly violated by inflammatory misrepresentation.
If integrity is to be restored, an apology to Rosemary is in order, with the additional undertaking that in the reporting of HIV/AIDS, restraint and balance will be the watchwords.
|Fernando Henrique Cardoso Ana Helena Chacón-Echeverría Charles Chauvel Shereen El Feki Bience Gawanas Dame Carol KiduHon. Michael Kirby Stephen Lewis JVR Prasada Rao Sylvia Tamale Jon Ungphakorn Miriam Were||Aziza Ahmed Scott Burris Joanne Csete Sophie Dilmitis Richard Elliott Sofia Gruskin Rick Lines Matthew Weait|