Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Daily Voice a MAD[1] for an article directly identifying a four-month-old baby and her brothers who lost their father under very horrific circumstances thereby potentially jeopardizing the safety of the children.

The article titled, “Man dies in hail of bullets after saving mom, baby daughter” (24/05/2021) reports on a father who was shot allegedly by gangsters in Cape Town. According to the article, the last thing the man did was to save the lives of his daughter and his own mother.

Unfortunately, the journalist directly and indirectly identifies the children by naming them, naming their mother, their deceased father, their grandmother, and also including their photograph in the article. These identifications are a major concern as they put the children’s lives at risk.

By identifying the children, Daily Voice infringed the Criminal Procedure Act Section 154(3)[2] which states, “No person shall publish in any manner whenever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a victim or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”

Further, Daily Voice also flouted their own Press Code in which they commit to protecting children. Section 3 of Independent Online’s Press Code[3] states, “Whenever the identity of a child is disclosed, whether pictorially or in print – The statutory restrictions on the naming or identification of children shall be observed and adhered to. The interests of the privacy and the reputation of the child shall be considered and, where necessary, protected. The permission of the parent or guardian of any child shall be sought in all cases where the identity of the child is to be disclosed. Even if the parent or guardian consents to disclosure of identity of a child, Independent Online shall exercise a cautious discretion, if it may be harmful to the child to publish the identity of the child.”

Section 4 of the Code goes on to talk about how Independent Online will blur the face of the child if publishing the picture as is presents harm to the child. Sadly, both these sections were flouted by Daily Voice.

Revealing the identities of the children in the story has the potential to subject them to victimisation and/or secondary trauma that might come as a result of seeing their story and identities in the media. Additionally, other harm might befall the children by virtue of being the deceased’s children even though the story does not say whether he was targeted by the attackers.

MMA urges journalists to ensure that the rights of the children involved in such stories on crime are always protected. The best interests of the children as supported by Section 28.2 of the Bill of Rights of the South African constitution must always be promoted.

We are requesting that Daily Voice withdraws all the identities from the article and instead use pseudonyms to protect the children. We further ask that the photograph accompanying the article be removed or be edited to hide the faces of the children and their mother. Further, an explanation should be given to Daily Voice’s audience as to why the decision to withdraw the identities was taken.

We look forward to reading more ethically reported stories on children.

By Jacques Ndong

[1] A MAD is given to media who irresponsibly report on children