Every so often, children are seen and not heard in South Africa’s mainstream media. In recent times, media reported on the Pretoria High Court’s ruling to decriminalise consensual sex between children. In most stories that appeared in the media, legal experts and children’s rights organisations, amongst others, were accessed for their views on the ruling in the absence of children’s opinions.
Saturday Star’s “Lowering the age of consent” (26/01/2013, p.9) receives a GLAD1 for standing out as an example of how to include children’s perspectives in these instances and generally in national dialogue- particularly on issues that affect them.
The journalist, Kashiefa Ajam, reported on the difference in opinions over the ruling and how it “confused many people”. While citing a variety of sources, including a spokesperson from Teddy Bear Clinic, a parent, teacher among other sources, Ajam also quoted a speech written by 12-year-old, Nawaal Badat, as part of a school project.
Badat offers fresh insight into the mind of a child directly affected by the court’s decision. “At the end of the day, when it comes to this judgement, it all comes down to morals and values. We have to ask whether it’s the court (sic) right and responsibility alone to give society its moral compass,” she states.
Media Monitoring Africa’s Editorial Guidelines for Reporting on Children in the Media, urge journalists to include children’s opinions on matters that affect them and also afford them the right to participate in media discourse when it is in their best interests.
Saturday Star should be commended for its article which is in line with these principles and which proves that children as young as 12 have incredible understanding of issues facing our country.
Media at large should take notes.
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”↩