Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act of 2021[1] is clear on cases when the media can and cannot identify children.

It is therefore concerning that the media continue to report on children in a manner that flouts the Act as well as ethical guidelines around reporting on children. Because Daily Voice flouted the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act and disregarded the children’s best interest principle in its reporting  of the article, “WATCH: ‘I want my snatched son back‘” (06/04/2023), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives the publication a MAD.[2] The article reports on a child who is reported to have been taken out of the country by his father without his mother’s consent. According to the article, the mother reported the case to the police who “confirm that a missing child enquiry was registered for further investigation” but deny that the child is missing since the child is not missing as the mother has contact with the boy and the person who took him from his residence with permission”. In the article, words such as “snatched” and “smuggled” are used to describe the act of the child being taken out of the country by his father. The article identifies the child through name and picture and through both of his parents.

Despite the police stating that the child is not missing, the fact that the article reports that according to his mother, the child was taken out of the country without the mother’s consent, means that a criminal act was potentially committed. This therefore means that the Daily Voice should have exercised caution to protect the child who is a victim in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act.

Considering that he is reportedly a victim of an alleged abduction, it is not in the best interest of the child to reveal his identity. As there is potential for harm such as victimisation, or discrimination, MMA submits that identifying this child violated his rights to privacy and also that the act itself went against the Bill of Rights’ Section 28.2[3] which states, “a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.  In addition, Daily Voice has violated its own press code, section 5.3.2, states that “the interests of the privacy and the reputation of the child shall be considered and, where necessary, protected”[4].

We urge Daily Voice and the media in general to always be cautious when reporting on children involved in stories on crime or abuse. Here, the media are called upon to report in a way that minimises harm to the children. The media are urged to always report in line with legal and ethical frameworks around reporting on children. Further, the best interest of the child should always take precedence.

MMA requests Daily Voice to kindly withdraw the child’s identity and those of his parents from the article and, to instead use pseudonyms in order to protect the children from harm, including potential harm. We also ask that Daily Voice includes an explanation to its audience as to why the decision to withdraw the identity was taken.

We encourage more ethical reporting on children and look forward to reading more stories covering children and prioritising their best interest and well-being.

Written by Ntombi Kubeka

Edited by Lister Namumba


 [2] MADs are given to media for irresponsibly reporting on children and compromising their safety.