Children have rights to freedom of expression and participation in the media. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC) which South Africa ratified in 1995 and 2000 respectively. Children’s voices and participation can enhance media stories about the children but sadly, the media do not afford children the opportunity to exercise these rights. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)’s 2020 findings on the coverage of children in the media reveal this. The findings show that in 2020, children only spoke in 7% of the stories about them.
For failing to include children’s views to a series of stories about the children, MMA gives a Missed Opportunity to Cape Argus and Daily Sun. MMA believes these two media missed an opportunity to enrich the stories with children’s perspectives thereby failing to empower the children by having them speak on different issues that affect them.
The first article, “Decision to cancel matric mid-year exams welcomed” (Cape Argus, 04/06/2021) reports about the decision of cancelling matric mid-year exams. The journalist interviews several adult sources in the article but not a single child. MMA is of the view that children should have been interviewed to get their opinions and feelings about the exams being cancelled.
“Protecting children is everyone’s duty” (Daily Sun, 06/06/2021)is about the minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu speaking to children about Child Protection Week and the importance of it. Photographs of children who look to be old enough to speak and be interviewed accompany the article. The journalist should have accessed children to get their views on child protection in South Africa and also how they commemorate Child Protection Week.
The third article is also from Daily Sun and is titled, “Singer Zolani welcomes kids to world of reading” (02/06/2021). This article reports about a donation of reading hubs and the difference it will bring to children’s reading in the pre-schools of Samora Machel area in Cape Town. The accompanying photograph is bright and shows how interested the children in the photograph are in reading. As is with the articles above, the journalist does not interview any child. It would been great to read about the children’s love for reading and how they feel about the donation.
Lastly, “Pupils claim they were left to starve!” (Daily Sun, 01/06/2021) reports about how learners from a special needs school in Tshwane protested for being left without food, among other things. The article reports that the children were not fed on a Friday and on a Tuesday, protested together with their parents. The journalist quotes adult sources in the article who chose anonymity and MMA believes the same should have been done for children who should have spoken about the issue.
In all the articles above, only adults are speaking and not once is a child’s voice heard. MMA’s media monitoring findings of how children were reported in 2020 reveal that 93% of stories had adults speaking in stories about children. MMA frowns upon this and encourages journalists to include children’s voices when writing articles that involve children especially when in the best interest of those children.
By Kgothatso Baatile Mohale
 A Missed Opportunity is a story in which children were not accessed for their views when they should have been