Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) frowns upon media houses that fail to protect identities of children who have witnessed and/or are victims of abuse as not doing so potentially exposes the children to harm. It is against this background that MMA gives to Saturday Star a MAD for publishing an article where a child victim of neglect is identified through name and picture.
The story entitled, “Bewildered and alone in big, bad Jozi” (Saturday Star, 07/07/2018, p.9) reports on a 10-year-old girl from KwaZulu-Natal who travelled alone to Johannesburg to spend school holidays only to find herself lost on the streets of Johannesburg. According to the article, the child was sent to Johannesburg by her aunt in KwaZulu-Natal with only an instruction to look for a red building to locate her mother.
While MMA encourages journalists to report stories involving child abuse to create awareness around the issue, we expect journalists to do so ethically. Identifying the child was unethical as it violated the Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media.
Section 8.1.3 of the Code states, “[The media shall] not identify children who have been victims of abuse … without the consent of their legal guardians (or a similarly responsible adult) and the child (taking into consideration the evolving capacity of the child), a public interest is evident and it is in the best interests of the child.”
MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media were also flouted. The Guidelines advise journalists to always respect the best interests of the child “even where [they] are trying to tell people about harm to children…”
MMA encourages the media to not identify children who have experienced abuse of any kind as doing so might subject the children to further trauma as a result of seeing their stories shared and identities revealed in the media.
In future, we hope Saturday Star will report ethically on children so that the children do not experience any potential secondary harm.
By Jacques Ndong
A MAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage
See MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media developed with the input of journalism and child experts: http://126.96.36.199/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/mma_editorial_guideline.pdf
The following is Saturday Star‘s response to the commentary;