The media has a responsibility to protect children in their coverage of the children especially when there is a potential for harm. Unfortunately, a child who was sexually abused was potentially subjected to harm because she was made to relive her traumatic experience through an interview.

It is for this reason that Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Daily Sun for an article titled, “Fury as rape suspect walks freely ekasi” (03/02/2022) which reports on an eight-year-old girl from Soshanguve who was allegedly raped by her neighbour. The article reports that in November of 2019, the girl was sexually abused by a neighbour while attending a party at another neighbour’s house with her family.  According to the story, the suspect was arrested but is now back in the community and the police say in the article that “the case was temporarily withdrawn for further investigation”. In the article, the child is interviewed and she says that she no longer feels safe and does not trust anyone.

We commend Daily Sun for taking extra care to hide the identity of the child by not revealing her name and the names of her family members in the article including going as far as blurring the faces of the child’s parents in the accompanying photograph. However, MMA is concerned about the decision to interview the child as this might subject her to potential secondary trauma. Protecting children in this type of story goes beyond concealing their identities.

Having children relive their traumatic ordeals has the potential to lengthen their healing process.

Journalists must consider how having a child recount a traumatic encounter can subject the child to further trauma as a result of having to relive the experience when telling the story. Even though it can be argued that the rape in this case occurred in 2019, we are of the view that the child might still be traumatised especially that the article does not mention that the child underwent counselling. We urge journalists to only interview children when the children have received the necessary counselling and assessment by professionals.

Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media,[2] endorsed by many media, journalists and editors, advise journalists to minimise harm in their reporting and consider how “in interviewing and reporting on children, special attention is to be paid to ensure that children are protected from harm and retribution, even potential harm and retribution”.

MMA urges Daily Sun and the media in general to be cautious with how they report on children and how they interview them for their side of the story. Children’s perspectives to issues affecting them are important and in this case, creative ways to get the views of children on the issue would have been employed especially if those ways avoided potentially subjecting the raped child to potential further harm.

We look forward to seeing stories on children by Daily Sun where harm is minimised.

Written by Ntsako Manganyi

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A MAD is given to the media for irresponsibly reporting on a child