MMA has released two of its latest reports on the coverage of children in South African and Zambian media. “Reporting on Children: Is the coverage getting any better?” looks at the portrayal of children in South African media from January to October 2011 and “Something to be glad about? Coverage of Children in South African and Zambian Media” presents findings on research conducted on media in South Africa and Zambia from July to November 2011 essentially providing the reader with data from 10 months of media monitoring in both countries.

While there are general improvements in how children are represented in the media, the report findings show that children are still underrepresented in the media making up only 12% of content in mainstream media and their voices are rarely heard.

Media were also rated according to MMA’s Media Rating System method which applies the DRIVE criteria outlined below to rate media’s performance:

Diversity of Children:
Are children represented in a range of different roles – and not just as victims of crime and abuse? Children from a diversity of ages, races, regions and different genders should be represented in a clear and fair manner.

Rights Respected:
Are the child’s rights respected? Identification and representation should always be done with the child’s best interest in mind. Including context and giving additional useful information contributes to the protection of children’s rights.

Issues Covered:
Is a diversity of issues covered? The media should include news that is relevant to society and reflects the complexity of children’s lives (such as health and education).

Voices Heard:
Have the children been approached directly or otherwise included? Whenever it is in their best interests, children should be accessed by the media as this adds to the credibility, relevance and representation of the story.

Reporting on children requires paying careful attention to respecting their rights, including their right to confidentiality and anonymity. This requires strict adherence to journalistic codes of ethics as well as the relevant laws.