Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Cape Argus for its story titled,   “[Name withheld] Primary School secretary laid to rest after being gunned down” (11/04/2022).  The MAD is given because the story indirectly identifies the child involved

The story is about a 61-year-old woman who was shot and fatally wounded in her car outside the school she worked at in Manenberg. The story mentions that there was the deceased’s six-year-old grandchild at the back of the car when the incident occurred.

By revealing the deceased’s name, her school and her position, Cape Argus has indirectly identified the child. This has compromised the child’s safety as it puts them at risk of being harmed especially that the perpetrators are still at large.

Furthermore, it violated the Criminal Procedure Act, which prohibits this action. Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act clearly states that “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 child is a potential witness at criminal proceedings.

In addition, Cape Argus also violated its own Press Code in which the publication commits to protecting children. Section 3 of Independent Online’s Press Code states, “Whenever the identity of a child is disclosed, whether pictorially or in print – The statutory restrictions on the naming or identification of children shall be observed and adhered to. The interests of the privacy and the reputation of the child shall be considered and, where necessary, protected. The permission of the parent or guardian of any child shall be sought in all cases where the identity of the child is to be disclosed. Even if the parent or guardian consents to disclosure of identity of a child, Independent Online shall exercise a cautious discretion, if it may be harmful to the child to publish the identity of the child.”[2]

MMA studies about children’s rights in the media revealed that the media consistently violates the children’s right to protection in coverage. According to results from the 2021 media monitoring exercise,[3] 2% of stories clearly violated children’s rights. These violations may seem small but they have an adverse impact on the lives of the victims.[4]

The media were deemed to have violated children’s rights when they failed to protect the children’s identity for instance, as is the case with the article under review.

MMA requests Cape Argus to withdraw the identity of the deceased and the school name from the online article and to instead use pseudonyms. We further ask that an explanation be given to readers as to why the decision to withdraw the identity was taken.

Cape Argus is urged to continue reporting on children but to ensure that the best interests of children are protected.  Further, the publication is urged to make efforts whenever possible to protect children especially those who are victims/witnesses

 to crimes and abuse.

Written by Musa Rikhotso

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] MADs refer to stories where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage



UPDATE: After an engagement with MMA, Cape Argus removed all reference to the child from the article