Simon Jenkins on a history of sex, sensationalism and racial politics in Cardiff.
In the autumn of 2014, a trial at Cardiff Crown Court received significant coverage on BBC Wales and Media Wales outlets. The case involved two women in their twenties who had been trafficked from Nigeria to the UK and forced to work as prostitutes at a massage parlour on Cardiff’s City Road. In their coverage, BBC Wales – both online and in its flagship programme, Wales Today – stressed the significance of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘black magic’ in the trafficking of the two women. Reports focused on ‘the “juju” ritual’, which allegedly involved the women being forced to eat snakes, snails and dust, leaving them ‘fearing illness, madness, infertility and death’. Highlighting the media’s fascination with this aspect of the case, Wales Online ran the headline ‘“Black magic” madam’ in its coverage of the traffickers’ sentencing. Similarly, Wales Online and the South Wales Echo reported on a Cardiff Council inquiry in 2011 into sex trafficking with the sensational headline ‘Exposed: Cardiff’s sex slavery shame’; like the coverage of the case of the two Nigerian girls, these reports linked sex work and foreignness through stressing the domination of ‘Eastern European gangs’ in the operation of the city’s prostitution.