Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) commends Daily Sun for brilliantly and ethically reporting on two stories that involve minors. The stories titled, “Girl raped after school” (26/02/2021) and “Rescued-from-sex-a-shack” (01/03/2021) are awarded a GLAD[1] for protecting the identities of the children who are victims of abuse in the stories.

The first story is about a 13-year-old girl who was raped and her two friends robbed while walking back from school. The story by Kgomotso Medupe talks about how children in the named area in North West started walking to and from school after bus services were stopped because of late payments from the department of education. According to the article, the lack of transport forced the children to walk for about eight kilometres on a dangerous route. The 13-year-old and her friends reportedly took a short cut through the bush when they met a man who raped the child and robbed her friends. The child and her friends are not identified.

Among the people interviewed in the article is the child’s mother and unlike the norm in most coverage of such stories, the mother is not identified. The accompanying photograph of the mother is taken in such a way that only her back is visible to the camera, an action indicating that care was taken to ensure that she is not identified.

Meanwhile, the second story by Ntebatse Masipa is about a group of young girls who were rescued from a shack where they were reportedly drugged and made to sleep with men.  The story mentions that a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old were among those rescued from the shack.  According to the story, the suspects were arrested and have appeared in court. The children are not identified in the story and among those interviewed are the parents of both children. The article mentions that the identity of one of the parents cannot be revealed to protect the identity of their child. Further, at the bottom of the story is a call for victims to get in touch with Powai for counselling through a provided number.

Both stories sufficiently protected the identities of the children involved through ensuring that the children’s names are not revealed and the names and faces of their parents are withheld. Further, both journalists are commended for taking care not to interview the children about their ordeal thereby protecting them from any potential harm that might come as a result of being made to relieve their trauma.

The withholding of  children’s identities is in line with MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media which urge the media to “always respect children’s dignity and well-being” and to ensure that the actions of the journalists do not subject the children to harm, including potential harm.[2]

In the second story, it is mentioned that the suspects have already appeared in court and will appear again while the first story mentions that police are investigating a case of rape. This means that the identities of all the children involved and are potential witnesses at criminal proceedings are withheld in line with Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act.[3] In both cases, not revealing the identities of the children protects them from potential harm such as retribution or to be kept from testifying in court.

Such efforts from Daily Sun could go a long to improve and show how children’s rights are respected by the media because according to the  media monitoring report on coverage of children by MMA, only 6% of children’s rights were respected by the media in 2020 which is a decrease from 19% in 2019. Rights monitored are participation, privacy, dignity, expression.

MMA commends Daily Sun for highlighting the challenges that children are facing and, in the process, ensuring that the reporting is ethical and is in the best interest of the children involved. Well done, Kgomotso Medupe and Ntebatse Masipa!

By Musa Rikhotso

[1] GLADs are awarded to media for reporting on children responsibly

[2] Editorial guidelines and principles for reporting on children in the media;