Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives DispatchLIVE a MAD[1] for an article indirectly identifying children who witnessed the killing of their father and grandfather in a horrific manner. The MAD is given because such identification endangers the safety of the children involved.

The article titled, “Emotion-charged funeral for policeman gunned down in front of family” (DispatchLIVE, 31/01/2022) reports on a brutal killing of a police officer from the Mthatha stock-theft unit in Eastern Cape. According to the article, the officer was shot 16 times with an AK47 on January 14 in full view of his wife, children and grandchildren. The deceased, his wife and children are named with the wife also being shown in a photograph accompanying the article.

That the journalist states in the article that there were suspicions around the killing of the officer should have made them exercise extra caution to not identify the children involved, directly or otherwise.

The journalist should have sufficiently protected the identities of the children as not doing so was unethical and reckless. Further, this action potentially compromises the children’s safety as the gunmen are still at large and moreover, the family publicly pointed an accusing finger at the police.  

Identifying the children is also aninfringement of the Criminal Procedure Act Section 154(3)[2] which states that, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever 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.”

Aside from being victims, the children involved in the story witnessed the crime and are therefore potential witnesses at criminal proceedings. Therefore, the journalist should have adhered to the Criminal Procedure Act and sufficiently protected the children’s identity by not revealing the identities of the deceased father, the mother and the deceased’s children. While the article does not mention how old the named children are, the assumption is that the grandchildren, if not together with the named children, are younger than 18 years.

MMA has always urged journalists to make sure that the rights of the children involved in such stories are always protected. We always urge journalists to always adhere to ethics as supported by Section 8.1 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media[3] by assessing the impact of such stories and the decision to reveal identities on the children involved. 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 DispatchLIVE removes the deceased’s identity, his wife’s and his children’s identities from the article and to instead use pseudonyms to protect the children from potential further harm. We also advise that DispatchLIVE explains to its audience why the decision to remove the identities was taken.

We look forward to reading more ethically reported stories that protect children and promote the children’s best interest.

Written by Jacques Ndong

Edited by Lister Namumba

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