Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Media Waves and Moral Panicking: The Case of the FIFA World Cup 2010

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Media Waves and Moral Panicking: The Case of the FIFA World Cup 2010

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, human trafficking made headline news in 27 South African newspapers. This resulted in a series of news waves pertaining to perceptions of forced prostitution and child trafficking to come during the World Cup. Evocative headlines capitalising on societal fears appeared in the local media. Out of 350 articles covering human trafficking in South African newspapers between 2006 and 2010, 82 (or 24 per cent) directly linked this sporting event with human trafficking. A sample of headlines included: "Flesh trade fear for World Cup" (Citizen 2006); "Human trafficking casts shadow over 2010" (Sunday Independent 2007); "Human trafficking may escalate ahead of 2010 World Cup--report" (The Weekender 2008); "Warning on child trafficking in 2010" (Cape Argus 2008); "2010 exploitation: Human traffickers ready for World Cup" (Daily News 2009); "Human trafficking red alert: Women, children under threat as World Cup sees prostitution demand rocket" (Daily News 2010).

As with previous international sporting events, the threat of human trafficking quickly became part of public consciousness. Advocacy organisations, such as Molo Songololo, Justice Acts, Not for Sale, Doctors for Life, STOP (Stop Trafficking of People) (1) and politicians (2) publicly repeated inflated estimates of numbers of women and children who would be trafficked, brutalised and forced into a life of sexual servitude in order to meet the demands of hordes of "sexually deviant, inebriated football fans". It was erroneously portrayed that large sporting events--particularly football--attracted and facilitated the demand and supply of illicit sex. Based on the myth of 40 000 sex slaves who were imported from Eastern Europe into Germany, a resultant media hype and moral panic, became part of the South African World Cup discourse. We claim that media hypes based on constructed moral panics might be recycled in similar scenarios demonstrating the staying power of such media hypes and the utility of moral panics. As Vasterman (2005: 517) claims:

   [M]edia coverage can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A situation
   becomes a real crisis because it is described as a crisis; a
   condition becomes an important social problem because it is
   described in terms of a sudden deterioration of the situation. In
   this way media-hype can create new realities, independent from
   other non-mediated realities.

2. The dark side of sex, football and South Africa

Up until 2008, South Africa was ranked as a Tier 2 (Watch List) country for the fourth consecutive year by the United States (US) TIP Report for failing to "comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking" (UNHCR 2008). According to the report, the government failed to provide adequate data on trafficking (cases investigated and/or prosecuted), and deported and/or prosecute suspected victims without providing appropriate protective services (UNHCR 2008). Although South Africa was taken off the watch list in 2009, the report noted that it still did not comply with the minimum standards. This assessment remained the same in the 2010 report. To date, formulation and harmonisation of legislation in accordance with the prescripts of the Protocol have yet to be fulfilled. The 2010 TIP Report, identified South Africa as "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labour and forced commercial sexual exploitation" (US Department of State 2010).

An exploratory study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released in March 2010 on the dimensions of human trafficking in southern Africa supported the findings of previous studies that suggested South Africa is a key destination and, to a lesser extent, a country of origin and transit for people trafficked to and from Africa, globally, and internally (HSRC 2010). …

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