Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a Missed Opportunity[1] to SowetanLIVE and News24 for their articles that celebrate children’s achievements but miss the opportunity to include the children’s voices to the articles.

The first story, “5 boys who rescued abandoned Labrador rewarded with special surprise over Easter” (News24, 09/04/2021) reports on five children from Cape Town who heroically rescued an abandoned dog. The article describes how the boys were innovative in their rescue and determined to ensure the dog was tended to by the Animal Welfare Shelter of South Africa where they took the dog after travelling a great distance from the point of rescue. The story is accompanied by an image of the smiling five boys who in the article are dubbed the “magnificent five”. Their efforts earned the children certificates of bravery and donations from various organisations. Despite being named and photographed in the article, the children are not interviewed.

The second story, “Prodigy makes history as first girl to captain a school cricket team” (SowetanLIVE, 07/04/2021) reports of a 17-year-old girl, Alexandra Candler, who reportedly became the first female captain of a school cricket team. According to the child’s mother who is quoted in the story, Alexandra was “voted in as captain by her male counterparts”. The story is accompanied by a powerful image of Alexandra playing cricket and showcasing her talent. Her success story and journey is highlighted by her mother in the story as she shares her daughter’s passion for the sport and where it derived from.

Not only does this article showcase her capabilities and determination but it also shines a spotlight on how the girl child is now occupying the space which was historically deemed for only males. Just as is the case with the News24 story, the child’s voice is also missing in this story.

The coverage of these two stories by News24 and SowetanLIVE is commendable and we acknowledge the efforts made to shine the light on children and their achievements. However, the two media missed a powerful opportunity to include the children’s voices and let them share their perspectives on their achievements. This would have empowered other young children even more as they would be hearing from their fellow peers.

By failing to give children the opportunity to add their voice, News24 and SowetanLIVE violated the children’s right to express their opinions, as stated in The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).[2] Article 7 of the Charter states, “Every child who is capable of communicating his or her own views shall be assured the rights to express his opinions freely in all matters and to disseminate his opinions subject to such restrictions as are prescribed by laws.” South Africa ratified the ACRWC in 2000.

Additionally, MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[3] encourage journalists to include children’s views on matters that affect them as children have the right to have their views heard.

MMA encourages SowetanLIVE and News24 to continue to report on children and highlight their achievements and to ensure their voices are added to the stories, especially when in the children’s best interest.

By Nomshado Lubisi

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which, for instance, children should have been accessed but are not.