Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is happy to award a GLAD[1] to Daily Sun and News24 for their respective stories, “Couple in court for child neglect and rape” and “Bail for mother, 30, charged with her boyfriend, 91, in child neglect and rape case by Getrude Makhafola ” Both stories were published on the 3rd of April, 2021.

The two stories are about a two-year-old, a five-year-old and their 11-year-old sibling who were reportedly neglected by their mother and sometimes “left to fend for themselves”. The articles also report that the mother’s boyfriend raped the 11-year-old child. According to the stories, a “good Samaritan” rescued the children and took them to a school principal who then called the police. The mother and her boyfriend are reported to have gone on the run. They were captured and are facing charges of child neglect and rape respectively. The article further reports that a charge of accessory to rape might be added to the woman’s charges as it is alleged that the child was raped in her presence.

None of the children are named and neither is their mother. The article also does not identify the woman who rescued the children. A statement is included in the article saying that “the accused cannot be named to protect the identity of the children”.

MMA commends Daily Sun and News24 for protecting the identities of the children in the story. By not naming the children or their mother and her boyfriend, the journalist ensured the protection accorded to the children in the Criminal Procedure Act. The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in 2018 in case 871/2017 (Centre for Child Law and Others vs Media24 Limited and Others) that Section 154 (3) be read as follows, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a victim or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”[2]

Furthermore, withholding the identities of the children also protected them from potential victimisation, retribution etc that might come because of being identified in the media.

This kind of reporting where the identities of the children are sufficiently protected is also in line with MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media which state, “In all stories where identifying the child may cause harm, be sure to avoid indirect identification of the child through showing family, a school, residence, friends or a combination thereof.”[3]

More often than not, media tends to name the school and grade that the child victims are in after mentioning that they cannot name the parents in order to protect the children. Daily Sun and News24 must be commented for ensuring that they did not mention the school or divulge any information that could lead to the identification of the children.

Furthermore, these two media must be commended for mentioning that the accused cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, something that differentiates a GLAD article from expected standards of reporting on children. According to the 2020  media monitoring report on children in the media by MMA, only six percent of stories respected children’s’ rights which include the rights to privacy and dignity. We therefore applaud Daily Sun and News24 for contributing to this percentage and hope that the figure will increase in the next monitoring exercise.

MMA also hopes that Daily Sun and News24 will continue to practice such good journalism when it comes to reporting on matters that involve children.

By Musa Rikhotso

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

[2]  See Section 154 (3) of the criminal procedure Act 51 of 1997

[3] (Page 6)