“Father’s death brings out violent streak in boy” (Sowetan, 29/07/2011, p.2) indirectly identifies two children and a 13-year-old boy who is said to be not coping well after his father’s murder. This article receives a MAD from Media Monitoring Africa for not acting in the children’s best interests and contravening legislation.
The article reports that the boy’s father was shot by his daughter’s ex-boyfriend outside his home. This incident unfolded after a brief argument in which the father pleaded with the man (who had a gun in his possession) to kill him instead of his daughter. Even so he was killed by the man.
The teenage boy and his sister reportedly then “testified that they (had) heard gunshots ring out but did not see their father get shot.” The article also mentioned that the sister’s children “later had to duck gunshots from their own father.”
Sowetan photographed and named the boy’s sister and his mother, thereby violating the rights of the child and the two other children by indirectly identifying them. This contravenes Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which states “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 a witness at a criminal proceeding who is under the age of 18 years”.
The article further reports that the widow of the murdered man told the judge that she had received “complaints that the boy routinely got into fights with other pupils at school”. She mentioned that the boy’s behaviour changed after his father died, acting violently without any reason and not listening to his mother’s reprimands. Notably, there appears to be a lack of context in the article as it failed to probe deeper into the boy’s behaviour which could have possibly resulted from the murder. Instead, it goes on to relate the incident of that fateful evening and how the murder case is unfolding in the courts.
Media should always strive to act in the best interests of the child and follow proper legal procedures when reporting on news, especially those involving vulnerable children.