Gutter press have no shame

I don’t often use the phrase ‘gutter press’ because I think it’s generally rather condescending – as the editor of a free paper I’m sure it has been thrown at me and my colleagues a few times.
But this piece illustrates why it exists… my editorial from last week. Sorry I’ve been so late posting, rather caught up in Haiti events these days!

When news broke in January that conjoined twins had been born to a couple in Cork, there was widespread excitement, not just in Cork but throughout the country.
When pictures of Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf first arrived on newsdesks, they were gazed at (in this office at least) and oohed and aahed at, because they are not just conjoined, but two of the sweetest looking kids I’ve ever seen.
Quickly nicknamed ‘Cork’s Little Fighters’, the boys have become regular celebrities; but their parents only revealed their identities because of the overwhelming interest in their case.
The fact that they are conjoined made them newsworthy, because of the rarity of that condition. And when they appeared on the Late Late Show, the sight of their proud parents and sisters showing them off, like any other babies, was simply adorable.
Since then, they have appeared regularly in national and local newspapers, due to that same overwhelming interest.
Hassan and Hussein will soon undergo separation surgery, which must be a dreadful worry to their parents.
As usual, Cork has not been found lacking and the support for the twins has been huge, with a bike run held by the Rebel Riders raising over €21,000 on Sunday. That’s just one of a number of fundraising events held for the twins; with the medical expenses they are facing, all donations are welcome, their uncle told us.
All donations, with the exception of one.
Reports surfaced over the past few days that a tabloid newspaper offered thousands of euro to Angie and Azzedine, the twins’ parents, for pictures of them. The sum reported was €100,000, but it was far less than that.
So far, so Brad and Angelina?
Not quite.
The newspaper wanted pictures of Hassan and Hussein in the bath.
In the times we’re in, pictures of children in the bath are not something you print in a newspaper, for a number of reasons.
While doting mums and dads love to watch their little ones splashing around, and are fully entitled to take such pictures (we all have that embarrassing photo album at home), a national newspaper is another thing.
And the added element of the twins being conjoined is no doubt what prompted the request in the first place.
Whatever about taking pictures of just any child in the bath, taking naked pictures intended to show off and exploit the twins’ difference to sell newspapers is inherently sick.
It’s a testament to the good taste and sense of Angie and Azzedine that they said no. If they had said yes, I wouldn’t have criticised them; they are going to need money, and parents will go to huge lengths to look after their children’s welfare.
Thankfully, widespread goodwill and generosity has saved them from having to sacrifice their sons’ dignity in order to pay for their life-altering operation; shame on the newspaper that tried to make them do so. It brings all of us in the media into disrepute.


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