Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD to Sunday Times for a child maintenance article in which a child is indirectly identified thereby subjecting him to potential ridicule.
The article titled, “[Name withheld] dad ‘can’t be found’ for child support” (Sunday Times, 21/04/2019, p.6) reports on a famous public figure who has reportedly not paid child maintenance for a period of five years and seems to be eluding authorities. In the article, the child’s mother further details her attempts with the police to obtain his current address in order for him to be arrested for failing to appear in court. The child involved is indirectly identified through the mention of both his parents’ names whose photographs also accompany the article. These photographs are not pixelated or blurred to avoid further identification.
By indirectly identifying the child, Sunday Times has contravened Section 36 of the Maintenance Act 99 of 98. 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.”
The identification of parents in maintenance disputes may cause the child humiliation and embarrassment and as such, MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media advises against this. Journalists must always respect children’s dignity and well-being.
MMA further urges journalists to adhere to Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution which highlights that children’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning them. Identifying this child through his parents was not in his best interests.
While we acknowledge the journalist’s efforts to bring awareness towards child maintenance which has increasingly become an issue in South Africa, we encourage journalists to report on children-related issues within the consideration of children’s rights, ethical and legal frameworks.
We look forward to reading more Sunday Times’ articles in the future that report on children in a manner that acts in their best interest.
By Nomshado Lubisi
 A MAD is given when a journalist reports on children in an irresponsible manner