City Press is applauded by the Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) for its article “Parents fight maintenance court bungle” (City Press, 08/06/08, Business Section, p.16) by Nhlanhla Ncaca. The article exposes a maintenance court bungle and parents’ attempt to make the maintenance court officials accountable, all the while protecting the identity of the child.
In South Africa children’s rights are enshrined in Section 28 of the The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa (1996), which states that “the child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child . The Bill of Rights also states that children have rights, amongst others, to basic nutrition, shelter and social services. These rights place responsibilities, and a duty of care, on the state, towards children.
By covering this maintenance case, City Press exposes how the system put in place to protect children’s welfare has failed in its responsibilities to ensure children are protected and provided for.
The article looks at the parents’ attempt to make the officials accountable. This empowers other parents faced with a similar problem to seek recourse.
The way in the story is covered ensures that the best interests of the child involved are fully considered, alongside the interests of the public.
The reporter protects the identity of the child, and in doing so protects the child’s rights to dignity and privacy.
This is done in a number of ways, including the use of pseudo names to refer to the parents; not identifying the child concerned; not featuring pictures of the parents and child, and not providing unnecessary information such as the parents’ places of employment or residence. Including such information could have easily led to the identity of the child being revealed.
While the article is to be glad of, for bringing attention to issues affecting children, it could have been improved by giving more of the legal context, as well as the clear step by step process to follow where facing problems with maintenance payments.
1. The principle of the best interests of the child as paramount is also specified in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1999) and the Children’s Amendment Act 2007. These also specify the child’s right to privacy and dignity. The UNICEF Guidelines (Date Unknown)also provide useful information on considerations needed for reporting on children.