Sowetan’s article, “Court told how trio robbed Banyana star” (31/07/09, p. 6), received a MAD OAT Mad nomination for contravening Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act by indirectly identifying a child witness during court proceedings.
The article mentioned how the 16-year old witness was a sibling to one of the three named and photographed alleged perpetrators.
Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act states: “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) realises that the journalist made some efforts to protect the child’s identity, by not naming the boy and explicitly stating that he “cannot be identified because of his age”. However, these efforts fell short when the article mentioned that he was related to one of the three perpetrators.
Identifying a child witness during court proceedings exposes him/her to harm, for example, from people who might be connected to the alleged perpetrators and who may have an interest in harming, threatening or intimidating the witness. It adds to the child’s vulnerability and could prevent him/her from leading a normal life.
MMA hopes that Sowetan will make a note of the concerns raised and take heed of these in future reporting, as a child’s right to dignity and privacy is always of the highest priority.
NB. MMA has concealed names and faces in the article to protect the child’s identity