IOL infringes on the rights of a convicted child

When reporting on children implicated or involved in any other manner in criminal proceedings, it is imperative that careful consideration is given to each child’s right to privacy and confidentiality. This is so the child can be protected from exposure to further potential harm or even reprisal.[1]

Consequent of this principle, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) issues IOL a MAD[2] for the article titled, “15 years jail time for KZN teenager who killed his childhood friend” (05/08/2023) for identifying a sentenced teenager who committed the crime when he was a child.

The story is about a male teenager from Kwa-Zulu Natal who has been jailed for 15 years for the murder of his childhood friend. The story explicitly mentions the name of the convicted boy, who was charged as a child but has since turned 18 through the course of court proceedings.

By virtue of identifying the now 18-year old, IOL has flouted Section 154 (3)[3] of the South African Criminal Procedure Amendment Act. The Section stipulates that “no person shall publish any information that reveals, or may reveal, the identity of an accused who is or was under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged commission of an offence at any stage before, during, or after” trial.  

Publishing children’s sensitive information in the public sphere significantly damages their prospects to restorative justice, detriments their personal development, and exposes them to the real threat of acts of harassment or even retaliation.

Further, publishing the identities of young people who committed crimes when there were children impacts their right to privacy and dignity – rights that were at the core of the Constitutional Court’s findings and subsequent ruling for the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act to offer on-going protection to those over the age of 18 who committed criminal offences as minors.

Revealing such private details is certainly not in the public interest nor is it justified by the fact that the accused has progressed past the age of legal childhood. The protections are valid and extend beyond the age of 18.

Such provisions are set out to guarantee that the best interests of the child are of utmost priority in every matter pertaining to them. MMA continuously strives to advocate for the rights of the child in the media and has published studies[4] which highlight how media entities consistently violate the rights of the child in their reporting.

We appeal to IOL for a retraction of the convicted teen’s identity from the article and for an alias to be used instead. Additionally, we kindly request that IOL provides an explanation to its readers regarding the rationale behind the removal of the accused’s identification.

MMA implores the publication to take the necessary precautions that will safeguard children’s rights when reporting on issues directly affecting their lived experiences. We look forward to reading more ethically reported stories.

Written by Tumelo Hlaka

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka


[2] MADs are given to media and journalists in stories where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through negligent news reporting.