Daily Sun’s articles “10 thugs hijack bus!” (03/05/2010, p. 4) and “A prayer to God, a song for Jesus, then murder by hammer!” (07/05/2010, p. 1, 2) are ones to get mad about as they identified child witnesses.
A child witness was named and accessed in the article about the bus hijacking. The other article named and pictured the child who witnessed her brother killing her other brother with a hammer. The identification of both children is clearly not in their best interest as it infringes on their rights privacy and dignity. This also contravenes Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act, No. 51 of 1977, which states:
“No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of eighteen years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of eighteen years…”
The headline of, and picture in, the article about the family murder could prove to be disturbing to the child as it might remind her of the trauma that she had endured on the night of the murder.
It is not revealed in either article whether the children received professional help to assist them to deal with the experience they had. When media speak to the child, who has lived through such a traumatic experience it might confuse the child and / or cause problems during investigation proceedings; furthermore, these children are not in the position to consider the consequences of secondary and tertiary abuse, which they may suffer in the future.
Identifying child witnesses does not add credibility or integrity to a story. Articles could easily be reported on with pseudonyms or by not inserting a name at all. Therefore, Daily Sun and the media need to be very careful with issues that involve law and the best interests of the child by not identifying child witnesses.