A child’s right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC) articles 13 and 7 respectively, is one of the most important rights that should be respected and promoted not only by government departments, schools and society but by media as well. Such was not the case with Daily Sun as the publication failed to access children for their views in an article about them.
“These pupils have ideas!” (Daily Sun, 31/10/2017, p.22), reports on an event organised by the Department of Community Safety and Transport where a group of children from all provinces in South Africa debated and contributed their views regarding what should be done to improve road safety in the country. What is exemplary about this process is that some of those children who participated were children living with disabilities. Some of the challenges presented by the children, as reported by Daily Sun, were “lack of drop-off zones, speed humps, pedestrian crossings, speeding …”
Although Daily Sun should be commended for covering the event, the publication failed to interview the children who participated in the event thereby missing an opportunity to further promote their right to expression. This being an important event highlighting a critical issue, it was necessary that the children who were involved be given a chance to express their views on road safety as well as share their experiences of the event. This was a glaring missed opportunity considering that the event was centred on ideas the children possess in solving the problem. The article reports that “the pupils had to submit their drawings and models and were judged on how well presented and researched their solutions were.” It is therefore unfortunate that the voices and participation of children, despite being of paramount importance in the road safety debate, were not in the story.
Ntshuxeko Nkuna, a child media monitor from Park Senior Primary School, emphasises the importance of having children’s views included in stories about them, “Journalists need to include children’s voices as they have the first hand impression on the events happening in their lives. Children’s rights to expression should be respected.”
Research conducted by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has also shown that 22% of stories about children that are published in the media show them as vulnerable victims thereby potentially making their representation and inclusion of their voices and opinions difficult to handle ethically considering the vulnerable circumstances some children find themselves in. Since there were no ethical dilemmas for the journalist to wrestle with in this particular case, Daily Sun should have taken advantage of the opportunity to showcase how intelligent, innovative and articulate children are.
MMA looks forward to seeing more children’s voices included in Daily Sun’s coverage of children, where it is in their best interest.
By George Kalu
 South Africa ratified the UNCRC and ACRWC in 1995 and 2000 respectively
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