Mail & Guardian is arguably South Africa’s premier newspaper when it comes to issues of social development. Despite this, children seldom feature in the pages of the newspaper (although education often does). This is unfortunate considering that children are a significant and growing portion of our population and development issues affect children sometimes most acutely. However the edition published on 29 May 2009 covers the Child Justice Act an important piece of legislation which generally garnered little coverage elsewhere.
The new editor, Nick Dawes, writes about the complexities of putting this newspaper together considering the amount of content that editors have offered to them – mentioned in an article the previous week (“Stepping in to Haffajee’s stylish shoes”, 22/05/09, p. 23). Considering the amount of opinion pieces (or “op ed”) offered to the newspaper, the devotion of an entire page to the Child Justice Act is notable.
The article, “An Act of Compassion”, is written by Don Pinnock who was involved with drafting the White paper. The Act represents a radical departure from current strategies to incarcerate child offenders and involves a more comprehensive strategy including community involvement. This fundamental revision of the way in which child offenders are treated got surprisingly little coverage.
While Sunday Times was commended by MMA previously for its coverage of the Child Justice Bill (MAD OAT, 2008), a cursory search of the websites of the major newspapers (www.iol.co.za;www.thetimes.co.za; www.businessday.co.za and www.news24.co.za) returned no articles to the search on the Child Justice Act.
Media Monitoring Africa commends the inclusion of this article in the Mail & Guardian and looks forward to more coverage of children’s issues under the new editor.