Resources - Get Mad/Glad

Media should reinforce its efforts on ethical reporting

14 December 2016

A critical part of media’s role in society is to reinforce ethical reporting standards especially in cases where children are or can be implicated. Such is the article “Girl, 3, murdered to protect son’’ (The Star, 24/11/2016, p.14).

The article is about a three year old girl who was stoned to death by the mother of a nine year old boy to protect her son after he raped the three year old girl in 2014.  Horrifying events disclose how the child’s body was buried in the back-yard of the boy’s family house under a banana tree. The article reports that the mother of the boy who allegedly raped the victim was sentenced to 11 years in jail for the killing.

The journalist, Zelda Venter exercised caution and vigilance in her reporting of the news article. In an effort to protect the identity of the now 11 year old child, the journalist mentioned in the article that ‘’the mother cannot be identified in order to protect her son.’’

By not identifying the child directly or otherwise, The Star adhered to Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which stipulates, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.” Even though the article does not clearly state that the now 11 year old was a witness or accused, it was still imperative that his identity be withheld and the journalist made sure this was implemented.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) always advocates for the media to mention in their reporting of children why they cannot identify a child in a story like the above. This is to strengthen the idea of an informed citizenry as well as have other media houses emulate that particular media’s coverage of children and the efforts made in maintaining ethical standards by not identifying children in stories where revealing their identity could lead to harm coming to them. Therefore, we commend The Star’s efforts to not identify the child or his mother and to provide an explanation.

It is thereunto that we award the aforementioned article a GLAD1  for having respected the rights of the child in the story. We hope to read more of such articles in The Star and urge other media houses to emulate the publication’s efforts.


By Mike Maseko


1.A GLAD is MMAs way of highlighting good practices by the media when reporting on children, which protect and promote children’s rights, and represent them in a positive and ethical way.


The journalist responded to the commentary saying;


Zelda Venter

Thank you so much for selecting my story! I really appreciate it, especially as it was a very sad case.
It was clear that the mother wanted to protect her son, but unfortunately went about it by murdering the poor, young, victim.
It is a loss for everyone - the mother has to spend 11 years in jail, while her two children are in a place of safety.
The boy was never charged, and could never be charged, as he is under the legal age to take responsibility for his actions. Its just a pity the mother did not realise this when she discovered that he had raped the girl. The judge also commented on this.
He also did not give evidence, as the mother pleaded guilty and there was no need for evidence.
Anyway, thanks again.


MMA

Thank you very much for responding to the commentary. Indeed it is sad what happened in the article but as mentioned before, we are glad of the way you reported it. We hope to see more ethically reported stories on children in your publication as well as others.