Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned about a story published in Sowetan entitled “Mom, teen on murder rap for family deaths” (31/07/2012. p.9). The story is about a mother and her 16-year-old daughter who are appearing in court after being charged with the murder of two of their family members. MMA believes the manner in which the story was reported could have dire consequences for the child suspect; it is due to this fact that the story is classified as a MAD.
The story fails to protect the identity of the child by naming and showing the picture of her mother, in so doing indirectly identifying her. Consequently, by identifying the mother, the article enables people, especially those who are close to her, to easily identify the child. This can lead to unwarranted implications such as victimisation and isolation of the suspect either by her community, her peers or people who have an interest in the case.
Sowetan, thus violated Section 9.3 of the Press Code which stipulates, “The press shall not identify children, who have been victims of abuse or exploitation, or have been charged or convicted of a crime”.
In addition, Avusa’s guidelines which also bind Sowetan state: “We will always protect the identities of children who have been victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse or exploitation; and those who have been charged or convicted of a crime or been a witness to a crime.”
While Sowetan might not have intended on identifying the child suspect, we hope that the newspaper will be more cognisant of such principles and legislation in its reporting in future. This is especially important on issues that have to do with children involved in matters that deem their protection against all possible harm necessary.