The article “Boy watched dad die” published by Daily Sun, (26/05/2011, p.4) deserves a MAD. It reported on a ten-year-old boy who witnessed his father being brutally killed by thugs.
Although the article states that the child cannot be named as “he is a minor”, it indirectly identified him by revealing the names of his parents. Ethically, identifying the child is discouraged as he witnessed a traumatic and emotionally-taxing incident. But apart from the moral obligation of ensuring that child witnesses are not identified in the media, Daily Sun, like any other media institution, is legally obliged to protect their identities. This is due to special legal protection afforded to children who are victims of crime or accused of committing crimes.
The indirect identification of the child in this article thus contravenes Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which states: “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at a criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned that Daily Sun disregarded this piece of legislation and as a result, potentially subjects the child to harm.
Media should always strive to act in the best interests of the child and follow proper legal procedures when reporting on news, especially those involving vulnerable children.
By revealing the identity of the child, Daily Sun was ethically and legally not acting in the best interests of the child.