Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) notes with concern that twice in the last month Sowetan’s Mama Angel has printed images of children where it was clearly not in the children’s best interests to do so. As a result MMA is giving Mama Angel a MAD.

The first image accompanied an article called “There’s now more soup in the kitchen” (Sowetan, 02/09/2010, p.18). It described how Mama Angel donated groceries to a soup kitchen helping children “where many children have only one parent or are living with relatives” and who “often speak about their parents who are sick in hospital.”

Identifying that these children have either lost parents or have parents that are seriously ill suggests that at least some of these children’s parents had or have HIV/Aids. This can lead to the stigmatisation and abuse of the children in question.

The article also described children that “do not go to school because they do not have uniforms or shoes”.

Rather than celebrating the positive nature of the donation, the children that appear in the image alongside this Mama Angel article may be humiliated, stigmatised or abused as a result.

Mama Angel’s “Stationery for future leaders” (Sowetan, 09/09/2010, p.11) also featured an image that may lead to the children photographed being teased or abused.

According to the article “350 disadvantaged children” were to benefit from the Mama Angel donation. The Director of the Drop-in centre involved was quoted as saying that “the Aids epidemic has exacerbated the already negative impact of poverty and unemployment on these children”, saying “when their parents develop Aids, they can become as vulnerable as orphans to the increased risk or malnutrition, neglect, isolation, dropping out of school and abuse of all kinds.”

It is not in the best interests of these children to be identified in this context, and that is exactly what happens when an image of the children is published alongside an article detailing their hardships.

Avusa policy guidelines clearly state that:

“In our reporting on the lives and welfare of children, we undertake to act in accordance with the Constitution and in appreciation of the vulnerable situation of children.

We recognise that children’s rights to privacy and dignity deserve the highest degree of protection, and we undertake to respect these rights in every situation. We will maintain the highest possible ethical standards in reporting on children.

We undertake to consider the consequences of our reporting to children, and to take steps, where appropriate, to minimise the harm. We undertake not to stigmatise children, to stereotype them, or to sensationalise stories about them. We undertake not to expose children to abuse, discrimination, retribution, rejection or harm by their communities or by society at large.”

By publishing images of the vulnerable children that benefit from Mama Angel, Sowetan is undermining the positive impact that this initiative has on those it helps, by violating the Constitutional and human rights of these children.