Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to The Post for its article published on the IOL website in which a sexually assaulted child was made to relive a traumatic experience through an interview.

The article titled “Boy, 15, ‘drugged and abused’” (03/12/2017) reports on a 15-year-old boy from Merebank, Durban who was allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted by a group of men.  It is reported that the boy had been out with a 17-year-old friend when they were approached by four men his friend seemed to know. According to the article, one of the men invited the two children to a house where the child was allegedly drugged and assaulted. “One of them grabbed me, holding me tightly; another shoved a handful of tablets into my mouth,” the child is quoted saying. The article reports that the child does not remember what happened after that but when he woke up the following morning, his family rushed him to a hospital for a checkup after he experienced pain and saw blood on his underwear. The case was reported to the police and according to the article, “a court prosecutor had declined to proceed with the matter”.

Considering the child suffered significant trauma at the hands of his attackers, MMA argues that making him recount his experience in the absence of a trained counsellor who could assess whether the child was fit enough to speak on the matter, subjected him to potential secondary trauma as he had to relive his ordeal. While the article withholds the child’s identity in a deliberate effort to protect him, it failed to adequately minimise harm.[2] Further to being subjected to potential trauma, making children relive their traumatic experiences can lengthen their healing process necessitating journalists and editors to consider the possible repercussions of their actions for children in these circumstances.

Although the abuse of women and children is of great concern for the country at the moment, boys and men do face the same challenge of sexual abuse. We therefore encourage journalists to report all manner of abuse that all children face not only during the 16 days of activism.

While it is commendable for journalists to look at how abuse affects boys as the country commemorates the 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Children and beyond, it is important that they also adhere to ethical principles when reporting on these stories and always aim to promote the best interests of the child.[3]

According to the Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media, in order to minimise harm when writing a story on children, reporters must ask those who know or work with them, or are experts on the issue, about the potential consequences of telling the story[4]

MMA urges The Post to always be cautious to avoid possible trauma by interviewing children who been abused. We look forward to seeing stories on children where harm is minimised.

By Ntsako Manganyi

[1] a MAD is given to the media for irresponsibly reporting on a child

[2]  Kruger J. (2004) Black, White & Grey Ethics in SA Journalism

[3]   This principle is enshrined in Section 28 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa (1996) which states that “the child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.