On 18 March 2009, Beeld ran a front-page story by Virgina Keppler about a four-year old boy who was allegedly raped by a man at his nursery school (“Oom het my seergemaak” or “Man hurt me”). While both the article and accompanying photographs safeguarded the boy’s rights to privacy, dignity and protection by not revealing his identity, the creative photography by Mia Willemse is particularly deserving of a MAD OAT Glad nomination.
The article tells what allegedly happened to the child, through an account provided by the boy’s parent. Given the child’s traumatic experience, it is good practice and in the child’s best interests that the journalist did not interview the child directly, but rather spoke with a responsible adult in a position to protect the child from further harm.
The reporter and newspaper make every effort to protect the child’s privacy and identity by not giving details which may directly or indirectly identify him, such as the name of the nursery school, the parents, or the child.
The pictures taken of the child do not show any details which could identify him. The main photograph shows only the mid part of his body, focusing on his hands and his Spiderman costume. The other photograph shows his small hands trying to tie his shoe laces. These pictures creatively show the child, in a way that protects his identity while emphasising his vulnerability as a child – hence, in need of protection from abuse.
The alleged perpetrator’s rights to privacy are also protected by not naming the accused or the nursery school where the events took place. The accused is the husband of the nursery owner. The accused is thought to have abused multiple children at the nursery school, and the article states that Beeld had received numerous phone calls from concerned parents. Given the circumstances and demand for details, it must have been difficult for a newspaper to not report all the information they have in a sensitive case like this.
Congratulations Beeld, particularly Mia Willemse, for such sensitive reporting.