Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) compliments The Times newspaper for a refreshing coverage of the Sexual Offences Act ruling in their story entitled “No end to teens’ love terror” (21/01/2013, p.5). Three issues stand out about the coverage, namely, it outlined the loopholes in the Sexual Offences Act, it gave children the opportunity to voice their opinions on the Act and how it affects them all the while protecting their identities. The Times also dedicated the entire page to the topic and its implications for children.
The piece in question highlighted some of the shortcomings of the Sexual Offence Act and pointed out to how it previously allowed for the prosecution of children under the age of 16 for partaking in sexual intercourse and other sexually related activities. Furthermore, the journalist, Nivashni Nair, focused on giving a nuanced explanation of some of the provisions of the amended Act. The article lucidly explains that under the amended Act, a child who is 12-years and over is allowed to get access to contraceptives without the presence or consent of a parent or guardian.
The Times should be commended for giving an extensive coverage to this topic and for reporting the inadequacies of our laws. This reporting is in line with the Constitution as it seeks to promote the best interests of children through informing and allowing them the opportunity to comment on issues that concern them.
Given that children’s voices are often neglected when reporting on their issues,1 MMA acknowledges The Times’ efforts in ensuring that the crucial voices are heard in the story. In so doing, abiding by their editorial policy which recognises that children have the right to have their voices heard and to participate in decisions affecting them.2 The Times article demonstrates that media can and should play the roles of educators by informing children (who in this case seemingly admitted to not understanding what the Sexual Act meant) and the public at large about the constitution and children’s rights.
Nivashni Nair also deliberately chose not to reveal the names of the child sources and only referred to them by their ages. This seemingly shows her awareness of the importance of protecting the identity of children and thereby protecting them from potential stigmatisation and humiliation.
Moreover, The Times was more careful on how it used the picture accompanying the story. The picture shows blurred children having sex in a shopping centre while “their friends video them on a cell phone.”
Well done to The Times and Nivashni Nair for demonstrating that they are capable of providing a nuanced coverage of children’s issues whilst protecting their rights. We hope other journalists emulate this positive and informative coverage from The Times.
In response to the commentary, The Times’ journalist, Nivashni Nair said:
“Thank you for recognising my story by selecting it for a GLAD”.