Inaccurate media reporting on child abuse in African communities
will put children at greater risk by driving the practice
underground, community groups warned this week.
Coverage of a leaked Metropolitan Police report on allegations of
children being trafficked into the UK for human sacrifice and
reports on the recent “witchcraft” child abuse court case have
stigmatised African communities as a whole, they said.
They added that efforts to build trust between authorities and
community members have been set back by “negative” coverage, which
in the case of the leaked report threatened further alienation by
presenting unsubstantiated allegations as fact.
Debbie Ariyo, director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said
media coverage of the report, also including allegations that
children were being raped by men with HIV who believed this would
cure them, had had far-reaching effects.
Distrust towards the African community was at a comparable level to
that which Muslims encountered in the period following 11
September, and there is a “lot of anger” as a result, she
She criticised the police for failing to counter press coverage
following the leak of the confidential report, which was due to be
published at the end of the month and follows a 10-month research
project in east London.
Her fears that all African children were in danger of being seen as
potential abuse victims were echoed by Katei Kirby, manager of the
African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance.
“The fact that a child goes to church does not necessarily mean
they are in danger,” she said.
She added that in many cases the reputation of the church was being
unnecessarily tarnished, as witchcraft was something separate and
seldom carried out in church settings.
Dr Richard Hoskins, a theology expert from King’s College London,
who advises the Met on racially aggravated crime, agreed, saying
the allegations formed a minor part of the report and that it was
essential to address the problem without sensationalising it.