The article about of a 14-year-old boy from Daveyton near Johannesburg, who allegedly hacked to death four members of his family, earns The New Age a MAD1 and exposes their inconsistent handling of one story. Titled “‘Killer’ teen in the dock” (The New Age, 27/09/2013, p. 7), the story is about the teen’s case being postponed to October 24 for further investigations and finalisation of the post mortem report.

The piece features a picture depicting the boy’s sister being “comforted by community and religious leaders with prayer.” Her name is provided in the caption and her image not censored. As such the boy, a child suspect who is currently going through the legal process, is indirectly identified.

By identifying the boy’s sister, the article makes it easy for people to determine his identity. Consequentially, such identification can heighten the child’s risk of experiencing stigmatisation and discrimination in his community and society at large.

Such identification does not only violate Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act2 but also violates Section 9.3 of the South African Press Code which stipulates, “The press shall not identify children, who have been victims of abuse or exploitation, or have been charged or convicted of a crime”.

Furthermore, The New Age uses a distasteful headline for the story. It refers to the child suspect as a “’killer’ teen” despite him not being found guilty by the court of law. The newspaper also uses the term “allegedly” throughout the article to show these are just allegations, which prompts one to question why they referred to him as a “’killer’ teen” in the first place.

Moreover, this story indicates The New Age’s inconsistency in handling stories about this particular child suspect as indicated in an earlier analysis by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).3 The analysis raised concerns over the indirect identification of the same child suspect, through naming his family members who were victims of his alleged crime, the first time they published his story. However, two subsequent articles on the same story were handled with utmost caution. This kind of coverage was however short-lived as indicated by the article in question in this analysis.

MMA is concerned about this kind of coverage involving a child suspect and hopes for better handling of such stories.  We also encourage consistent application of ethical principles in future reporting by The New Age and all media.

1.On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”
2. 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.”
3. See “Indirect identification of child suspect might lead to victimization.”