News media have an enormous impact on how people view or understand certain issues in society. In the context of South Africa – a country dealing with a number of societal-ills such as crime and violence, the media have a key role to play in how these issues, and processes involved in engaging with the criminal justice system, are understood. Daily Sun’s article “Granny makes bully pay” (14/08/2012, p.9) not only failed readers by missing an opportunity to educate them on the importance of reporting crime but also failed a child victim by revealing his identity. It is for these reasons that the article receives a MAD. 1
According to the article, a Grade seven pupil from a school in the North West was stabbed five times by a bully after an altercation with him during break time. It goes on to mention that instead of pressing charges, the boy’s grandmother demanded R3 000 from the bully’s family.
The article failed to contextualise the incident by not linking it to the broader issue of bullying and in fact failed to mention that the stabbing is more than just a case of bullying but constitutes attempted murder. The piece could have also had a lot more effect and educational benefit had it addressed reasons why children bully each other and the consequences of bullying for example.
Furthermore, the article dwells on the boy’s grandmother wanting financial compensation and not retributive justice – sensationalising the story which results in the issue of bullying losing its seriousness. It also reports how after the stabbing, the boy “ran back to the schoolyard holding his intestines in his hand”, providing details that seemingly add no value to the article.
Daily Sun neglected its ethical responsibility of educating readers on what to do in similar situations. This could have been achieved by accessing official voices like the police who could have emphasised the appropriate procedures to follow in such situations, like pressing charges and what parents, guardians and teachers can do should they suspect that a child or student is a victim of bullying.
Moreover, given the fact that the child is a witness to a crime and experienced a lot of trauma, both physically and psychologically, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) feels that the identity of the child should have been hidden and he should have not been accessed.
MMA hopes that Daily Sun will always remember that “the best interests of the child” should always take precedence in all situations involving them and to always thoroughly convey important information for the sake of public understanding, awareness and engagement.
1. Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act 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”. ↩