Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Daily Sun a MAD[1] for an article where a child is interviewed, an action potentially subjecting the child to further trauma.

The article titled, “Baby daddy bust for alleged murder” (Daily Sun, 12/02/2022) reports about a group of pupils that were on their way to school when they discovered a “bloodied” and “lifeless” body of a woman in Mpumalanga. In the article, one of the pupils is quoted talking about how they found the body lying in a pool of blood and notified the police.

That the journalist clearly states in the article that one of the pupils was traumatised should have made them refrain from interviewing the pupil. This move by the journalist potentially subjected the child to secondary trauma by having to recount the traumatic experience of a “gruesome” discovery of a body. In this case, the journalist should have acted cautiously and avoided interviewing the child and, only obtained information from police officers or other adults. MMA always urges the media to only interview children about their traumatic experience after those children have undergone thorough counselling and have healed enough to be able to recount their ordeals without the possibility of further traumatisation. This article didn’t indicate that the child went through counselling prior to this interview.

In addition, we always urge the media to conduct the interview in the presence of a counsellor to observe the state of the child before, during and after the interview.

By interviewing and quoting the child, Daily Sun went against Section 8.1 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media[2] which states, “The press shall therefore exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children under the age of 18. lf there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she shall not be interviewed, photographed or identified without the consent of a legal guardian or of a similarly responsible adult and the child (taking into consideration the evolving capacity of the child); and a public interest is evident.

There is no indication in the article that the child was interviewed with informed consent from him and his legal guardian. We submit though that even where informed consent is obtained, the journalist must exercise their duty and act in the best interest of children which in this case would have been to report the story without potentially subjecting the child to further harm.

We advise Daily Sun to be extra cautious when they report on children and also in how they access the children for their views. We look forward to seeing stories on children where harm is minimised.

Written by Msizi Mzolo

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] MADs are given to journalists for irresponsible reporting that subjects children to potential harm.