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Journalistic ethics not observed, rape victim indirectly identified

30 October 2012

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned about certain aspects of a story sourced from Sapa entitled, “Sentence Slashed over rape of Stepdaughter” (The Star, 10/10/2012, p.7). The article names a Limpopo man, whose sentence was reduced from life imprisonment to 15- years for raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter; in so doing, failing to protect the identity of the rape victim. Hence, MMA classified this story as a MADOAT MAD.

The story reports on how the man’s sentence was reduced after the appeal court ruled that “the child had probably allowed the sex in anticipation of gifts.”

While The Star should be applauded for their efforts in reporting and by so doing raising awareness on the social ills that engulf our country. MMA however feels that it was necessary for these steps to be taken with a conscious awareness of the impact such reporting is likely to have on the people involved and those who are affected, especially the victims.

MMA’s child monitors1 share the same sentiment regarding the naming of the stepfather. They believe that by revealing the name of the convict, the story indirectly identify the child victim.

Furthermore, the journalist should have taken into cognizance the impact of identifying the stepfather in this story, especially on the child and the potential harm that might be perpetrated to the child in light of the court’s ruling. MMA fears that this might result in the victim blaming and in turn being blamed for what happened.2

This kind of reporting falls short of MMA’s guidelines and principles on reporting on children committed to by the Independent Group, which The Star is part of.3 The Star also failed to uphold and respect The South African Press code, which stipulates that “The Press shall not identify children who have been victims of abuse or exploitation, or have been charged with or convicted of a crime.”

MMA acknowledges The Star’s well-intended actions to inform the society of the existing challenges in our country but it is important to do this with extreme caution to avoid causing harm to the most vulnerable, children.

By Musa Rikhotso

1.  Media Monitors from Parkhurst Primary School: Atlegang Melato, Joyce Raphela, Thato Thapo, Reabetswe Mogupudi shared their views on the article
2.  According to Pandora’s Project “When the courts aren’t placing responsibility where it belongs, it becomes even harder for society to see us as victims whose actions played no role in what happened. And, therefore, it becomes even harder for us as survivors to realize that we are not to blame.”For further details see http://www.pandys.org/articles/selfblameandsurvivors.html
3.  The Independent group commits itself to report children in an ethical manner and specifically, “To minimise harm” amongst other things.