Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned with the level of negligence demonstrated by News24 in coverage of a crime involving a child. The story in question indirectly identifies the child involved thereby not only compromising his safety but also breaching ethical and legal frameworks around reporting on children. The insensitive reporting of this story has earned News24 a MAD.[1]

The story titled, “Security guard arrested after stabbed 3-year-old boy leads police to mom’s lifeless body” (23/05/2022) reports on a three-year-old child who together with his mother, was stabbed by his mother‘s boyfriend. According to the story, the child’s mother died while the child was left to die. The story reports that the child regained consciousness, managed to get help and was further able to take residents to the scene where his mother lay. An investigation ensued and the security guard was later arrested.

News24 identifies the mother of the child thereby indirectly identifying the boy who is a victim of the crime, a possible witness to the crime and, a potential witness at criminal proceedings. By doing so, News24 violated the Criminal Procedure Act Section 154 (3) which stipulates, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a victim or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years”.[2]

Furthermore, News24 violated Clause 8.1 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media which News24 subscribes to. The Section explicitly urges the media to “exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children”. The Section of the Code goes on to state, “If there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she shall not be interviewed, photographed or identified without the consent of a legal guardian or of a similarly responsible adult and the child (taking into consideration the evolving capacity of the child); and a public interest is evident.”

MMA always urges the media to be extra cautious when reporting on children who have the potential to be harmed by coverage. Our Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media advise media stating, “Even where you are trying to tell people about harm to children or another children’s issue or promote children’s rights, you always need to respect the best interests of the individual child. The best interests of each child are to be protected over any other consideration.”

The Guidelines go on to state, “Always hide a child’s identity where the child might be at risk. No stories or images will be published that might put the child, siblings or peers at risk even when identities are changed, obscured or not used.”

In this case, the child who has been indirectly identified might be harmed for retribution. Further, the child might be harmed to be kept from participating in any or further criminal proceedings.

MMA requests News24 to withdraw the deceased’s woman’s name from the article and to instead use a pseudonym. We further ask that an explanation be given to readers as to why the decision to withdraw the identity was taken.

MMA urges News24 and the media in general to always conduct their reporting on children in a manner that is in the best interest of children. The principle of children’s best interest is supported by Section 28.2 of the Bill of Rights of the South African constitution.

Written by Musa Rikhotso

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A MAD is given to media when they report on children in an irresponsible manner