The tragedy caused by gang wars is that not only do the actual gang members die in the crossfire, but innocent citizens are also affected. Morning Live compounded a recent tragedy by identifying a child witness in the Reigter Park gang war killings (12/03/2012), 07:00 news bulletin. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) as a media watchdog is MAD1 at the violation of the child’s dignity and failing to protect the best interests of the child and her family by Morning Live.

A news clip in one of the headline stories of the day was a main cause for concern as the eight-year-old child witness was named and identified whilst her mother was interviewed. What is of particular disturbing is that there were a string of murders linked to gang violence in Reigter Park. The naming and identification of the child witness meant as a witness to a murder, her life would be in danger as the perpetrators were likely to come after her and her family.

The previous murders had not been solved as they had taken place in rapid succession of each other in the previous three days. Which meant this child witness was left in a very vulnerable state of having seen the perpetrators and being identified on the national television.

Also of concern is that the child’s mother was interviewed and was asked about where she lived. She pointed out that they lived directly across from where the dead man was shot. Once again, this could endanger the child witness and her family as the perpetrators now had an address to locate them. This incident clearly reveals that the reporter did not have the child’s best interests at heart.

As stipulated in the Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act, “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 reporter of this story and the camera operator, focused on a very visibly shaken child witness who had narrowly escaped with her own life as the gunmen where shooting at the murdered man who was in the same vicinity as the child. The trauma was visible on the child’s face as she was in tears and shaking badly. This jeopardises the child’s dignity and sense of safety.

Children’s rights and best interests should be upheld and protected by reporters and camera operators at all times, in all media reporting. Not doing so puts children’s lives in danger.

1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”