“Ashes to Ashes for teenager,” (Daily Sun, 22/02/2011, p.4) was selected as a MAD for insensitive reporting that also identified a 16-year-old girl who had gone through three very traumatic experiences.
The article reported on an orphan whose house was allegedly burnt down by criminals while she was sleeping. It reported that the girl lost her mother three months before the incident occurred and also lost her father a month later.
Giving graphic details about the father’s murder and the choice of words used to describe her experiences was undoubtedly insensitive.
It described the child’s “perfect life” prior to the tragedies, as one that “has gone to hell” and also reported that he child was standing “over her dying father, [while he was] lying in a pool of blood with [a] knife still stuck in his stomach.”
The headline was also problematic as it appears to be a pun on the phrase “ashes to ashes”. This phrase can be construed as describing the state of the child’s home after it was burnt down but can also serve as a reminder of how the child had to bury both her parents, as it is a phrase commonly uttered by priests at funerals.
Identifying the child along with these graphic and insensitive details was not in her best interests. Publishing such details in the media may subject the child to secondary trauma as she might be reminded of the events. Furthermore, the article claimed that the child has, “gone into hiding [and is] living with relatives who are protecting her,” however, it still identified her. This could potentially put the child’s life at risk.
Media Monitoring Africa’s Editorial guidelines and principles on reporting on children state: “special attention is to be given to each child’s right to privacy and confidentiality…and [the right] to be protected from harm and retribution, even potential harm and retribution.”
These guidelines are in line with Section 28(2) of the Constitution which states that the child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
We urge Daily Sun to be mindful of children’s rights as enshrined in the Constitution and ultimately protect them from possible harm and trauma.