Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to IOL for flouting the Maintenance Act by indirectly identifying the children involved through their parents.  

Dads still dodge maintenance” (IOL, 22/07/2018) reports on parents who fail to pay child maintenance. The story features two women and a man who have taken the fathers and mother respectively of their children to court for not paying child support.  All these parents are identified through name. A photograph of a woman who seems to be one of the named parents accompanies the article.

By identifying the parents, IOL indirectly identified  their children and this contravened Section 36 of the Maintenance Act 99 of 98.[2] The Section states that “No person shall publish in any manner whatsoever the name or address of any person under the age of 18 years who is or was involved in any proceedings at a maintenance enquiry or the name of her school or any other information likely to reveal the identity of that person.”

While we understand that the journalist’s intention might have been to create awareness around the issue of child maintenance, we are of the view that these kind of stories have the potential to humiliate the children involved as their peers or other members of society might begin to view them as abandoned children. It is for this reason that MMA urges journalists to always adhere to ethics as supported by Section 8.1.1 of the Code of ethics and conduct for South African print and online media[3] by assessing the impact of such stories on the children involved and put the best interests of the children first. Children’s best interests are supported by Section 28.2 of the Bill of Rights of the South African constitution.

We are therefore requesting IOL to withdraw the identities of the parents from the story and instead use synonyms and, provide its audience with an explanation as to why the decision to withdraw the identities was made. We are also requesting IOL to pixelate the photograph that accompanies the story. 

MMA looks forward to reading more ethically reported stories by IOL in future.

By Jacques Ndong



[1] A MAD is given to the media for irresponsibly reporting on a child


IOL has withdrawn from the story the surnames of the parents and accompanying photograph and provided an explanation as to why the decision to withdraw was made.


The following is the engagement between  IOL and MMA


[We] apologise for the lapse that occurred in publishing the maintenance story with the names, surnames and photograph of the parents. [We] have removed the surnames of the parents and changed the image.

Independent Media remains committed to high quality ethics-based journalism at whose centre is the protection of the rights of children. The Independent Media Press Code has dedicated an entire chapter on how these rights must be protected.

We will work harder towards ensuring that this standard is met in our print and digital publications.
Thank you for your response and the timely action taken to remove the surnames and photograph of the parents from the story and, for going further to explain to the readers why you have decided to not use the parents’ full names. MMA will upload the commentary including your response and indicate that IOL withdrew the surnames of the parents involved. 
We look forward to more of such positive engagement in future as well as reading more stories about children reported ethically.