Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives DispatchLIVE a MAD[1] for an article indirectly identifying children who witnessed the killing of their mother and their two aunts and, were themselves harmed in the shooting.

The article titled, “KZN cops hunt for man who killed three Umlazi sisters and shot children” (28/04/2022) reports on three sisters who were killed by a man. According to the article, a man entered the victims’ premises, shot dead the three sisters and seriously wounded one of the deceased’s two children aged five years and six months. The wounded children survived the attack and are reportedly both in serious condition in hospital.

Sadly, the journalist indirectly identifies the children by naming their deceased mother and the deceased aunts. That the police are still looking for the perpetrator who is at large should have made the journalist more cautious about identifying the children. The actions of the journalist have potentially subjected the children to harm. For instance, the children might be targeted to keep them from testifying or from participating in any criminal proceedings.

Identifying the children under such circumstances is not only reckless but also infringes 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.”

MMA urges journalists to ensure children involved as witnesses, victims and/or suspects in stories about crime are always protected. The children involved in this story not only witnessed the brutal murders of their mother and her sisters but were themselves victims. Such story content should remind journalists to always adhere to ethics as outlined in Section 8.1.1 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media.[3]  

Journalists should always assess the impact of revealing the children’s identities in such stories. 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 and children should always be protected. The journalists must always report on children while minimising harm as much as possible and this includes not identifying the children directly or otherwise when the children are at potential for harm, including potential harm.

We are kindly requesting that DispatchLIVE withdraws the identities of the deceased women and instead use pseudonyms to protect the identity of the two children. Further, we ask that DispatchLIVE provides an explanation to its readers as to why the decision to withhold the identities was taken. We look forward to reporting on children that minimises harm to the children involved.

Written by Jacques Ndong

Edited by Lister Namumba

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