“Kids witnessed mother’s murder – cops” (27/06/2012) is the alarming headline of an article deserving of a MAD originally published in Daily Mail (United Kingdom) and subsequently on theIndependent Online (IOL) news website. IOL violated the principle of limiting harm, by directly and indirectly identifying children who witnessed their mother’s murder.

The article details the verdict of a court case involving a man found guilty of murdering his wife in front their children after what is described as “a petty row”.

In the article, the children and both their parents are named, as well as their maternal grandparents. Albeit the requirement by South African legislation that media not reveal, directly or indirectly, the identities of children who are either the accused or witnesses at a criminal proceeding1, IOL failed to take this legal clause into consideration.

Notably, while foreign laws governing criminal proceedings involving children may differ to those of South Africa, Media Monitoring Africa believes that the fundamental ethical principles however remain the same. Having said so, the children should be protected at all times regardless of the origin of the stories in which they feature.

Moreover, the “best interests of the child” principle is a universal principle that has been articulated in international conventions (e.g. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 explicitly states that, “A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child”

MMA cautions Independent Online and media at large from throwing caution to the wind when reporting on international stories.

1. Criminal Procedure Act, No. 51 of 1977, Ch. 22, S.154 (3).