Child witness’s identity protected

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards DispatchLIVE a GLAD[1] for its article titled, “Girl, 9, tells court prison warder attacked wife with bush knife” (22/10/2022). The GLAD is awarded because the journalist sufficiently protects the identity of the child involved and even adds the reason why the identity of the child has been withheld.

The article, which is written by journalist, Ziyanda Zweni, reports on a nine-year-old child witness from East London who narrates during court proceedings how a former prison warder attacked his estranged wife with a knife in his room at East London’s Westbank Correctional Facility. According to the article, the child witnessed the murder. The story also reports that the child had accompanied the victim to collect her belongings from the suspect as she was trying to leave him.

MMA commends the journalist for respecting the Criminal Procedures Act by not identifying the child witness. Section 154 (3) of the Act as ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2018 states, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness or victim at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”[2]

Withholding the child’s identity is also in line with MMA’s Editorial Guidelines for Reporting on Children in the Media which state, “Children involved in legal proceedings even need more protection and are at greater risk so make sure to always protect their identity.”[3]By not naming the child, the journalist has protected her from further potential harm such as victimisation and retribution for having had testified.

Previously, there has been many stories in the media that have failed to protect the identities of the children when they are supposed to be protected. This was highlighted in a report on media’s coverage of children published in 2021 by MMA.[4]  The report reveals that 2% of the stories on children failed to protect or promote children’s rights and the norm includes protecting their identities when they are witnesses or victims of crime. MMA therefore applauds DispatchLIVE for going against this norm and protecting the child’s identity.

We commend Ziyanda Zweni and DispatchLIVE for ethical reporting of the story. We encourage the publication to continue reporting ethically and in the best interests of children. Well done!

Written By Musa Rikhotso

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A GLAD refers to an ethically reported article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted.


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