Three years ago the Daily Sun published a front-page story2 about two children who were burnt by electric wire cables. A very graphic image of the children shocked and dazed, crying with their clothes and skin burnt was published together with the article. No explanation was given for this kind of reporting. Three years later, the Daily Sun in a similar article titled, ‘’Kids set on fire!’’ (27/03/2015, p.1 & 2) took on a different stance to this manner of reporting by choosing to minimise harm and act in the interest of both the children and the public. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) also applauds the Daily Sun for going as far as publishing an editorial alongside the front-page story explaining their decision not to distribute the video which showed the children being set alight.
The article by Happy Mnguni reports on four boys aged between 15 and 19 years in a squatter camp in North West who were attacked by community members for allegedly murdering a man after a fight at a local tavern. They were reportedly stoned and set on fire. Two of the victims’ sisters witnessed the incident and someone recorded it on their cellphone, hence the video going viral.
Rather than choosing to circulate the video that contained explicit and gratuitous violence, the Daily Sun pulled all stops to respect the Press Code and adhere to children’s rights. In the editorial published alongside the article, theDaily Sun mentioned that it will be of no value to distribute the video as “SunReaders don’t need to watch children being burned alive to understand the horror that took place.” They also used their editorial to promote critical thinking, and encourage people to take action on the issue of violence in communities and discourage them from taking the law into their hands. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the publication took a decision that was in the best interests of the victims, their families and society at large.
MMA is also aware that the Daily Sun did not rush to break the story immediately after it happened. This demonstrates that they took their time in assessing their decision and its impact on those affected by the story. The decision to report the story days after it occurred also illustrates their intent to minimise harm for the family of the victims and those who witnessed the incident.
We applaud the Daily Sun and Happy Mnguni for carefully estimating the likely consequences of their actions and ultimately allowing for ethical journalism to prevail. We look forward to further examples of great ethical journalism.
By Thembelihle Magonya
1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”.↩
2. See https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/index.php/children/madglad-entry/burn_victims_bear_the_brunt_of_daily_suns_unethical_reporting/↩
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