On 17 May 2010 The Times published a front page story, “Another life wasted” (17/05/10, p.1) about two girls who were knocked down while walking home from school. One of the girls died while the other was in an Intensive Care Unit. The Times  receives a MAD for two reasons. First because they named the girl who survived the accident and secondly because they gave details of where she was in hospital.

In the story, the paper published the name and ages of both the victims. While in most cases it is ok to name a child who has died, it is unethical to publish the name of a surviving victim who is a child, especially if there is a possibility that they might have to testify in court.

Most importantly, as the 13-year old was a witness to a crime, providing details that reveal her identity in the media contravenes Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act, which states:
“No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”

The decision to name the child survivor and to provide details of where she was in hospital was not in the best interest of the child, as she might face further intimidation and victimisation from the alleged careless driver.

The Times  should be applauded for writing the story in a way that gives greater context to the issue of road safety. For example, it includes statistics on the number of children who have been killed or injured while walking between home and school in the area.

That being said, it is important that the media exercises caution when dealing with children who have witnessed a crime by not naming them or giving away details that might identify who they are or where they are. This will ensure that their security is not further compromised in any way.