Mercury misses an opportunity to give voice to girl soccer players.

The Mercury missed an opportunity (MOP)[1] for a great story by not giving a voice to a child in a story that is about them.

The article titled, Excitement as KZN girls’ soccer team prepares for continental competition” (02/04/2023) reports on school girls from Edendale Technical High School, in Pietermaritzburg KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). They use the school holidays for preparations of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) African Schools Football Championship Continental Final to be held in Durban’s King Zwelithini Stadium, in uMlazi.

The competition, which is a girls-only tournament, is said to feature six other teams from six different countries across the continent, these being Morocco, The Gambia, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, and Seychelles. It is reported in the article that the school has been on an impressive winning streak over the years, having won the best schools’ team award at the KZN Sports Awards in 2022, and the girls’ competition at the Cosafa qualifiers in Lilongwe, Malawi the same year, making them eligible for the Continental Final championship this year.

The article is coupled with a picture of the girls’ soccer team together with KZN Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Amanda Bani-Mapena after they won the CAF African Schools Football Championship in Malawi last year. The MEC is further extensively quoted in the article, speaking about how her department is proud of the girls and the support they intend to offer.

Whilst Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) welcomes and applauds the highlighting of children and their successes and/or challenges in the media – especially in a sporting code dominated by men and boys – the article could have been bolstered with the inclusion of the girls’ voices. An analysis of media coverage of children in 2022[2] showed that, “In 2022, children’s voices in the news was at 8% which is a slight difference to the 7% recorded in 2021”. 

MMA is of the view that if the media are going to report stories that have a central focus on children, then the children must be extensively quoted to share their perspectives especially when in the children’s best interest. In the article in question, it was in the best interest of the children to be accessed and quoted extensively.

Our Ethical Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media urge journalists to always take into consideration the best interests of the child, and that “children have a right to have their views heard on matters that affect them, so try and include them.” Therefore, when one is trying to determine the best interests of children, “the children’s right to have their views taken into account is to be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.”[3]

As such, MMA urges The Mercury to continue reporting on stories about children and their successes and challenges, but to also ensure that children are afforded the opportunity to express their views, feelings and experiences when doing so does not pose any harm to the children.

Written By Azola Dayile

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which children should have been accessed but were not.