An episode from SABC 1’s programme, Relate (14/03/2012) violated legislation by identifying a 17-year old girl who is a victim of rape and witness to a criminal case still before the courts. The “docu-reality show”, hosted by counsellor/ host Angie Diale, provides counselling sessions for troubled families with the aim of, as their tagline goes, “Helping people relate better”.

The episode referred to above, featured a father who sought the help of the host to mend his broken relationship with his daughter. Both the father and the daughter were brought into the show’s studio to get counselling and help them relate better.

It was established during the episode that the girl had been raped, and the rape incident was diagnosed to be the possible cause of the fall-out between the two. But, it was the revelation of the girl’s rape ordeal and the manner in which it was done that resulted in the show violating the child protection legislation, thus getting a MAD.1

During the show, the host directly asked the girl if she was raped, to which she answered “yes”. The father admitted knowing about the incident, and both he and his daughter indicated that the case was still before the court of law.

By revealing that the 17-year old girl, who was both directly and indirectly identified, was a victim of rape and a witness at a criminal proceeding, the show contravened Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which states that:” No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at a criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years”.

The programme failed to protect the child from actual or potential harm, humiliation and stigmatisation associated with being raped. The show also failed to put the child’s best interests first, as required by law. Section 28 (2) of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution states that: “The child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child”.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) urges Relate and the show’s host and producers, the SABC and media personnel in general, to adhere to legislation and ethical policies in their reportage of children.

In response to the commentary, SABC’s Manager of Broadcast Compliance, Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Fakir Hassen said:

We are very mindful of the legal requirements in respect of broadcasts about children and exercise great care and caution in respect of our obligations in this regard. We have a signed consent form in which the participant’s age is confirmed as 18 at the time of the interview in 2010.

Unfortunately the father of the child mentions that the child is 17, not the girl herself, as MMA has indicated. We understand fully how MMA and other viewers would therefore have interpreted this issue as you did, and apologise for the producers not having foreseen this and made the appropriate edits. We have addressed it with the production house concerned and also made arrangements for the programme not to be repeated in its current form with the statement by the girl’s father.

Please find the transcript of the two places in the show where age is mentioned. It is still incorrect that the girl identifies herself as being 17 years old. It is her father who does so.

Extract 1 – 06:34
Father: Things got worse because she dropped out of school sometime in the year.
Angie: How old was she and in what grade?
Father: Matric.
Angie: How old is she right now?
Father: She is 17 years old.
Angie: So you are telling me that you have a daughter who is 17 and she’s been behaving like this for 6 years. That means she started when she was 11 years old.
Father: Yes, she was still in school in Lebowakgomo.
(Note: “behaving like this” refers to her disappearing and staying away from home.)

Extract 2 – 12:22
Angie: When did you start seeing boys?
Girl: In 2005.
Angie: You started seeing boys in 2005. How old was this person that you were involved with?
Girl: It was like… if he was 19 I’d be 18.
Angie: So you were a year apart?
Girl: Yes, but I am just making an example.
Angie: Ok.

1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”