A child benefits from extended protection

Children who have been witnesses, suspects, and victims of crime or had traumatic experiences need to be able to trust that those they have come to for assistance would keep their privacy as private as possible.

Media monitoring Africa (MMA) awards News24 a GLAD[1] for demonstrating careful reporting in a case involving an individual who was a minor at the time of the crime. By refraining from disclosing the person’s identity to prevent victimisation and potential harm, News24 showcases responsible journalism practices. The  story titled, “Attacked with a hammer’: Teen witness tells court how he, dad and 3 others killed North West cops” (26/07/2023), written by Nicole McCain, reports that  a teenager who was one of five people charged with the murder of two North West police officers has now become a state witness.  According to the story, one of the five suspects accused of the crime is the father of a teen who was 16 years old when the crime was committed.

It is commendable that the journalist goes all out to protect the identities of both the father and teen as it is clearly stated in the article that, “Among them is the teenager’s 42-year-old father. He cannot be named to protect the identity of the boy, who was a minor at the time the crimes were committed”.

MMA commends News24 for protecting the identity of the people who committed crimes when they were still children. The journalist adhered to the ruling in the  Constitutional court matter between Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others [2019] ZACC 46, which declared section 154(30) of the Criminal Procedures Act constitutional invalid, by stating, “Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act is declared constitutionally invalid to the extent that the protection that children receive in terms thereof does not extend beyond their reaching the age of 18 years”[2]—and ordered that the section of the act be amended to protect children beyond the age of 18 years.

Withholding the child’s identity is also in line with MMA’s Editorial Guidelines for Reporting on Children in the Media which state, “Children involved in legal proceedings even need more protection and are at greater risk so make sure to always protect their identity.”[3]

By not naming the child, the journalist has prevented significant and life-long harm and protected him from further potential damage such as victimisation.

MMA hopes that News24 will continue to practice good reporting and exercise extra caution when it comes to issues involving minors.

Written by Ntsako Manganyi

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka

[1] GLADs are awarded to media for reporting on children responsibly.

[2] http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZACC/2019/46.html