Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Daily Sun a MAD for an article directly identifying child victims of a shooting thereby compromising their safety and well-being.
The article titled, “Cops shot my kids!” (24/03/2021) reports on three children who were shot allegedly by the police. According to the article, the children were wounded at a community meeting related to water and electricity where the police started firing shots upon their arrival, allegedly without any asking questions.
The journalist directly and indirectly identifies the children by naming them, their mother, where they stay and also including their photograph in the article.
Identifying the children is unlawful and unethical. Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which Daily Sun has violated is in place to protect children from being subjected to potential harm that can befall the children through identification. The Section states that, “No person shall publish in any manner whenever 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.”
The journalist’s irresponsible and careless reporting has the potential to expose the children to further harm such as retribution or to be kept from testifying especially when they are potential witnesses at criminal proceedings. The article reports that police are investigating the matter and that no arrests have been made. This means that the perpetrators are still large and so, the journalist should have been extra cautious to not identify the children.
Daily Sun has also gone against the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South Africa Print and Online Media. Clause 8.1 of the Press Code explicitly urges the media to “exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children.” The Section of the Code further states that, “If there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she shall not be interviewed, photographed, or identified without a consent of a legal guardian of or a similarly responsible adult and the child and also public interest is evident.”
That the article quotes the mother who says that her children are traumatised and living in fear should have made the journalist more cautious about the children’s well-being and safety.
MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media urge the media to refrain from identifying children in such instances stating, “Even when you are trying to tell people about harm to children or another children’s issue or promote children’s rights, you always need to protect the best interest of the individual child.”
We appreciate the effort done by Daily Sun on reporting issues affecting children. However, MMA urges Daily Sun to always sufficiently protect the identities of children who are victims and/or witnesses to a crime. We request Daily Sun to withdraw the identities of the children, the mother and the photograph from the article and rather use pseudonyms. We also request that an explanation be given to readers as to why the decision to withdraw was taken.
We look forward to seeing more responsible reporting from the publication in future.
 MADs are given to journalists for irresponsible reporting that compromises children’s safety
UPDATE: Daily Sun has since withdrawn the article from their website. MMA engaged Daily Sun over this and mentioned that the preferred outcome would have been to withdraw the children’s identities and not the entire article.