A SCHOOLGIRL who was featured in Zigzag surf magazine at age 12 without warning in a seemingly provocative bikini pose has been awarded R10 000 in damages in the Western Cape High Court, writes Karen Breytenbach in the Cape Times.

Judge Dennis Davis found it was "properly proved" that the publication was negligent in using the "pin-up" picture without the girl's knowledge or her and her parents' consent.

This finding was "fortified" by Section 28 of the constitution which found that the child's best interests were always paramount. He also found the appropriation of her image for the publication's commercial advantage infringed her dignity and privacy.

The Eastern Cape girl's mother first sued the publisher Atoll Media and Zigzag editor Will Bendix for R500 000, but later said the claim was not about money but about her daughter's shattered dignity.

The mother said they would have been happy with an apology, but none was forthcoming.

Although photographed from the back, the girl said people in her community, and especially the surfing community, recognised her because she spent the summer on the beach in that bikini, tied in her way.

The picture appeared in a 16-page spread, "Dishing up the photo feast", with the slang term "Pure Filth" stamped across it. Her caption read "all-natural Eastern Cape honey".

The picture was pinned up in a boys' high school and in a shop. A man her mother knew commented on its appeal, and it was briefly flighted on SuperSport. She was incessantly teased that she was a "slut" and "porn star".

The girl said the words "pure filth" had "destroyed" her, while her mother said she was robbed of her innocence.

The magazine, which is over 30 years old and has more than 30 000 readers, argued that surfers would know the slang term "filth" meant excellence.

It also said the picture was submitted by freelancer Al Nicoll who did not tell them the girl was 12, and they did not need her name because she was not identifiable.

The magazine argued she would only have been recognisable to close family and friends who would not have associated her with "filth" in the traditional sense. The publisher also could not have foreseen its further dissemination.

Editor Will Bendix conceded he probably would not have used the picture had he known she was 12.

Click here to read the full report, posted on iol.co.za.