Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is proud to give a GLAD[1] to DispatchLIVE, IOL and News24 for ethical reporting where the identities of children involved in the stories are withheld thereby protecting the children from potential harm.

The DispatchLIVE article which is written by the journalist, Orrin Singh is titled, “Tempers flare as pupils and security face off outside Durban school” (20/05/2022). The article is about an incident that happened outside Effingham secondary school in Durban.  It reports on an altercation between two schoolgirls which turned into chaos resulting in private security and police officers being involved in an attempt to calm the situation. In the article, the identities of the children involved have been withheld.

The article makes reference to viral video clips of the incident but does not show the video. A screengrab from one of the videos accompanies the article but the identities of the children in the screengrab have been blurred. The image shows a security officer pointing a gun at a child.  Referring to clips showing the actual fighting, the journalist goes an extra mile by stating in the article, “The clips are not being shared here in deference to the legal rights of children”. This inclusion of the reason why the clips are not shared further qualifies the article as a GLAD.

The IOL article titled, “Life sentence for KZN man who made his 11-year-old niece watch porn and then raped her” (19/05/2022)  is written by Jolene Marriah-Maharaj and reports on an 11-year-old girl from Mondlo in Kwa-Zulu Natal who was raped by her uncle while visiting him. According to the article, the child was first forced to watch a “pornographic video” by her uncle after which he proceeded to rape her.

In this article too, the journalist goes an extra mile to state, “On Monday, the accused, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the minor, was sentenced in the Nquthu Regional court”. Such inclusion of the statement by the journalist further qualifies the article as a GLAD.

The News24  article is titled, “Melkbosstrand child rape: ‘Scared of the monster’ – Allegations against crèche owner’s husband reveal sexual terror” (13/05/2022) and reports on an alleged rapist and his alleged crimes against children which reportedly started in 1983. The article written by the journalists, Deon Wiggett and Tammy Petersen is an investigative piece on a story in which a man is believed to have raped toddlers as young as two years whom he apparently abducted from a school run by his wife near Cape Town. The article also reports that when the first accusations were made against the alleged rapist, the National Prosecuting Authority declined to prosecute him because the children were “unreliable”.

Furthermore, the journalists reveal that in the past 11 years, the police have opened at least seven dockets against the alleged rapist but again the State withdrew the charges. The most recent case against the man was in 2018 when a three-year-old girl told her parents about the inflicted sexual abuse, the story reports.

Throughout the article, the journalists at no point disclose the name of any child involved in this story. All the names of the children who were allegedly raped by the man are withheld and at the end of the article, the journalists take time to explain why this is so stating, “Names have been changed to protect their identity or the identity of their children who are victims of a sexual crime.”

Of further note and indeed very commendable is the addition of the Childline toll free helpline at the end of the article. The statement advises readers who might have been triggered by the story to call the helpline, 116.

The investigative article, the withholding of the children’s identities as well as the addition of the toll free helpline have qualified the News24 article as a GLAD.

MMA always urges journalists to ensure that children involved as witnesses, victims or suspects in stories about crime are always protected. We therefore commend all the journalists of these stories for exercising caution when reporting the stories and ensuring that the children’s identities are withheld to protect the children from potential harm. We further applaud the efforts in educating the public as to why the decisions to withhold the children’s identities were taken.

By not revealing the children’s identities, DispatchLIVE, IOL and News24 all adhered to 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.”

It is important to mention that DispatchLIVE and News24 also adhered to the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media[3] while IOL adhered to its own Press Code.[4] Both Codes urge the media to be cautious when reporting stories about children and to ensure that harm is minimised.

MMA congratulates DispatchLIVE, IOL and News24 for reporting that is in children’s best interest. We would like to encourage the three mediato continue to practice this kind of good journalism when reporting on matters that involve children.

Written by Jacques Ndong

Edited by Lister Namumba

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