Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) selects eNCA’s online article “Man allegedly beats son to death” (01/09/2017) for a MAD[1]  for failing to adequately protect the identity of a child witness.

The article is about a father who was arrested for allegedly killing his son.  According to the report, the child lived with his grandmother but had been visiting his father for about a month as his family wanted to allow the father and child an opportunity to bond.  Neighbours claimed the boy had been beaten up several times before his death which was witnessed by his three-year-old sister.

The article further reports that the man has been arrested and names the child who was beaten to death, in the process indirectly revealing the identity of a child witness, the three-year-old sister who was present during the incident. By so doing the eNCA, violated the Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 which states, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of eighteen years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of eighteen years.”

Furthermore, Section 154 (3) is supported by Clause 8.1.1 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print Media and Online Media which clearly states that media shall in the spirit of applying the best interests of the child:“Exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children.”

Therefore, eNCA should have taken the necessary precautions to ensure that the identity of the victim’s sister was sufficiently protected. MMA emphasises that it is the ethical responsibility of news media to minimise harm to children and further advocates for the protection of children’s identities in articles of this nature.

Going forward, we hope that eNCA will strive to sufficiently protect the identity of the child in question and do more to act in the best interests of all children in the news.

By Musa Rikhotso

[1] A MAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage