Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Sowetan for indirectly identifying a child allegedly at the receiving hand of discrimination from her school because of her hairstyle.

Mom, school in hair battle“ (Sowetan, 24/01/2018, p.8) reports on a 13-year-old child in Soweto who was told by her school “to cut off her dreadlocks or relax her hair”. The article quotes the child’s mother who complains that she does not see why the school would demand such especially since this is the child’s second year at the school. The child is also quoted saying, “It hurts me to be singled out for my hair.” The article reports that the matter will be investigated by the Gauteng department of education.

While Sowetan does not reveal the identity of the child herself by withholding her name and blurring her face in the accompanying photograph, all this effort is seemingly undone by  Sowetan’s decision to  reveal the  name of the child’s mother thereby indirectly identifying  the child anyway and by so doing potentially  exposing the child to more victimisation and intimidation.

By indirectly identifying the child, Sowetan contravened its own editorial policy which states in part, “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 expose children to abuse, discrimination, retribution, rejection or harm by their communities or by society at large.”

In this light, MMA urges Sowetan to fully protect the identity of children who are at risk of abuse and discrimination.

We look forward to seeing the publication exercise more caution in the future.

By Jacques Ndong


[1] MADs refer to stories where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage