Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD[1] this week to City Press for its 8 October, 2017 issue which not only included two stories in which the identities of children whose parents were involved in legal battles were actively protected, but also included two other stories which intentionally sought out children’s voices and portrayed them in a positive way.

The first story, “Posh school in race row” (08/10/2017, p.7) by Msindisi Fengu focuses on a lengthy court battle between a set of parents and a private all-boys primary school in Johannesburg. The parents’ two sons were essentially expelled after their father “allegedly intimidated an official at a school sports match in November 2015. The basis of the parents’ ongoing legal dispute is that the school has handled incidents of ill-discipline in an “inconsistent manner” over the years and that their sons were expelled unfairly. The story cites another case (being used by the prosecution) in which two Grade 7 boys allegedly carried out “an extraordinarily ugly racial attack” on a Grade 5 boy and the penalty of suspension for the accused was reduced because the alleged attackers were provoked. In this story, City Press clearly states that the identities of the parents are intentionally withheld in order “to protect their children’s identities”.

The second article, “Dr’s papgeld problems” (08/10/2017, p.3) by Ntombizodwa Makhoba reports on a former Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana player whose former fiancée recently filed a maintenance order against him for failing to contribute financially to their son. The former soccer player is due to appear in court in this month. According to the report, the woman arrived at the SABC, where her child’s father now works, to hand over the legal papers. She is currently reportedly unemployed and is seeking his help to cover the expenses of the child. Here, too, the former fiancée is not named in order to prevent the identification of their son and this is directly stated in the article. Even though the child’s father is named in the article, it would be hard to identify the child due to the decision by City Press to conceal the identity of the mother as well as the fact that the former player is reported to have various children from different women.

MMA applauds the efforts of both City Press journalists identified above in protecting the identities of the children. In both cases, the children, given the circumstances outlined in the stories, are vulnerable to further trauma and victimisation should they be identified and the deliberate efforts to secure their anonymity is to be commended. In terms of the law, the journalist from the first story also adhered to Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act[2] by not identifying the two children who are potential witnesses in the criminal proceedings. The second journalist upheld Section 36 of the Maintenance Act (1998) by not revealing any identifying information of the child involved in the story i.e. “any person under the age of 18 years who is or was involved in any proceedings at a maintenance enquiry”[3]. In the same way, it is also worth noting how critical it is that journalists make their audiences aware of the precautions they take in securing the best interests of children in their stories and this was aptly done here when in both cases it was stated that not naming the parents was an intentional decision to protect the children’s identities.

While the type of ethical reporting highlighted above is a crucial element to improving children’s coverage in the media, another important mechanism is by improving the type and number of stories that portray children in a positive light. This edition also provided two examples of this type of reporting.

The story, “Matli will soon be a big name in local football” (08/10/2017, p.18), written by Silver Sibiya, showcases the achievements of an up-and-coming 15-year-old footballer, Thato Matli.  The teenager is the captain of his school’s U-15 football team (Clapham High) which won this year’s Copa Coca-Cola national tournament in Bloemfontein. He also scored five goals which earned him the top goal-scorer award of the entire competition. “I was expecting to be the player of the tournament, but I am happy I got this [top goal-scorer] award,” he is quoted saying. Not only does the story access him, it also reflects a positive sense of agency in the young athlete and portrays him in a confident and encouraging light.

The last piece is a photograph with the caption, “Blossom in your garden on Garden Day” (08/10/2017, p.13) which shows a four-year-old, Sebastiaan Badenhorst, grinning at the camera with a garden spade in hand and a floral wreath on her head. The caption speaks to the importance of Garden Day (15 October) and refers to research that reveals how much happier people are when they spend time in their gardens. Although this is only a photograph, and not a full-length article, the photograph is delightful and speaks to the diversity of ways in which children can be positively represented in the media.

These two stories demonstrate the ease with which children and their views on issues that affect them can be accessed and the various ways in which media can put forward children positively.

MMA once again commends City Press on this edition in which the inclusion of all four stories is to be applauded. Not only is the sheer number of children-related stories remarkable,[4] but that two of these stories were ethically written, that one of them sought out a child’s voice where appropriate and that two of them represented them in positive ways is all to be congratulated.

We look forward to seeing many more editions of this nature in the future.

By Sarah Findlay

[1] A GLAD is given to an article where a journalist reports on children’s issues in a positive and/or responsible way



[4] Research by MMA on media’s coverage on children in 2016 showed that children’s stories only make up 6% of all media stories. See full report here:


In response to the commentary, Silver Sibiya said this;

It is a pleasure to know that someone out there is watching the work we are doing as journalists we are constantly criticised.

So this recognition by Disappear Online Accountability Tool (MAD OAT)  Media Monitoring Africa together with is a blessing.