The New Age’s “Boy kills his family” (27/05/2013. p. 1) is classified as a MAD by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) as it indirectly identifies a child crime suspect. The story is about a 14-year-old boy from Daveyton near Johannesburg, who is due to appear in the Benoni Magistrate’s Court for allegedly hacking to death four members of his family.
The names of the deceased, that is, the boy’s mother, grandmother, younger sister and brother are provided in the story, thus identifying the boy indirectly. By identifying the boy’s family members the article makes it easy for people to determine the identity of the child suspect. Consequentially, such identification can lead to unwarranted implications such as victimisation of the suspect either by his community, his peers or people with vested interest in his case.
The New Age thus violated 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”.
It is worth noting that The New Age voluntarily rectified this mistake in subsequent articles about this story. The next day, the paper published a follow-up story titled “Accused boy attacked” (The New Age, 28/05/2013. p. 1) but handled it in a totally different manner compared to the previous day. Neither the boy’s name nor the victims’ names were provided which concealed the boy’s identity, as per the Press Code requirements in stories such as this one. Another follow up story titled “Axed gran alive” (The New Age, 29/05/2013. p. 1) was published and was also treated with utmost caution.
MMA acknowledges that The New Age might not have intended to identify the child suspect as proven by the subsequent stories where ethical principles were observed. However, it is still concerning that the story was handled in the manner that it was on the first day of it being reported. This also begs the question of what triggered this inconsistency.
We hope that The New Age will be more consistent in applying ethical principles in its future reporting.