It is a norm for the media prior and during Child Protection Week to increase the number of stories on children. While Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is pleased with this focus by the media on children, we are always of the view that coverage of children should not only be event based. We envision a future where children make the news all the time. However, this is not to say we do not appreciate the media’s efforts during Child Protection Week in highlighting issues and challenges children face. We just urge the media to always be reminded to ensure that the reporting is done in the best interest of children.
Regrettably, the article titled, “21 people in 1 RDP house” (Daily Sun, 26/05/2021) is selected as a MAD for coming short of meeting the basic standards of reporting on children. The article identifies children involved in a story reporting about their vulnerable state.
The story reports about a family that includes 26 children between the ages of one month and 17 years who all live with their grandmother in an RDP house in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The story reveals that some of the children do not attend school as they had to join the family business of making and selling brooms. The article reports that none of the grandmother’s seven children works and as a result, children are forced to work to help provide food for the family. According to the story, the children endure harsh conditions selling the brooms and that they sometimes do not return home if they have not made enough money for transport.
The article reveals the child labour that these children are victims of. Child labour is defined as defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that: interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Child labour is a form of child abuse and the Press Code and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media advises against the identification or interview of children who are victims of abuse. “In the spirit of Section 28.2 of the Bill of Rights, [Section 8.3 advises that] the media shall not identify children who have been victims of abuse or exploitation…”
MMA condemns the revealing of the children’s identities through picture and through the naming of their grandmother. We also condemn the interviewing and identification of the child quoted in the story. These actions potentially compromised the children’s dignity. Additionally, the identification and interview has the potential to cause further harm such as humiliation and victimisation. MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media advise that journalists must always respect children’s dignity and well-being.
While we note the mention in the article of granted “permission to talk to the kids and take pictures”, we are of the view that the journalist should have exercised their duty to act in the best interest of children and protect them from harm, including potential harm.
MMA reminds Daily Sun to double check what is in the best interest of the child when doing a story which involves children and to pay special attention to the circumstances of the children and the potential consequences that might come as a result of the reporting and the manner in which it is done.
By Ntsako Manganyi
 MADs refer to stories where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage
 What is child labour?- https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm