Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to IOL for an article by Daily Voice that is published on the IOL website titled, “Boy, 10, left with crushed leg after motorist ’spinning’ BMW loses control” (07/10/2020). The article has been selected as a MAD for failing to adhere to ethical standards of reporting on children by identifying the child involved who is a victim of a motor vehicle racing accident that has the potential to turn into a criminal case.

The article reports on a 10-year-old boy who was left with a crushed leg after a man who was spinning his car crashed into him. It is reported that the boy’s leg was broken in four places from the impact of the accident. The driver allegedly lost control of his vehicle and hit the boy in the process. According to the child’s grandmother who is quoted in the article, the boy was on his way to the shops. The article further reports that the family will lay a charge with the police.

Although the story is newsworthy, it grossly violates ethical and legal frameworks of reporting by identifying the child through name, photograph and through his grandmother, clearly not acting in the best interest of the child.

MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] urge the media to refrain from identifying children in such instances stating, “Even where you are trying to tell people about harm to children or another children’s issue or promote children’s rights, you always need to respect the best interests of the individual child.”

Further, the fact that the article mentions that a criminal case will be opened should have made IOL/Daily Voice not to identify the child as doing so is in violation of Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which advises against identifying such children. The Section now states as ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2018, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever 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.”

By revealing the identity of the child and his guardian in this article, the journalist has compromised the safety of the child as a victim and a potential witness at criminal proceedings should the family go ahead with their plans to lay a charge. Additionally, because the child’s identity has been revealed through name and photo, people might intimidate him to stop him from testifying. With all this risk, MMA feels that the journalist should have acted in a cautious manner. Further, we believe that the story would have had the same impact had identities been withheld.

We therefore request IOL to withdraw the child’s and his guardian’s identities from the article and instead to use pseudonyms. Further, an explanation should be given to readers as to why the decision to withdraw identities was taken.

MMA encourages IOL to protect child victims and witnesses in all their stories and to always promote the best interest of children in such reporting.

By Ntsako Manganyi

[1] MADs are given to journalists who have irresponsibly reported on children and compromised their rights and welfare

[2] (see page 2)