Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Sowetan for an article indirectly identifying a child thereby subjecting him to potential ridicule.

The article titled, “Dad angry after ‘slap on wrist’ for school’ worker” (Sowetan, 26/02/2020, p.4) reports on a 7-year-old learner who was assaulted by the school’s general cleaner. The article extensively captures the views of the father on the matter. The cleaner, who pleaded guilty to the assault during a disciplinary hearing, is also quoted extensively in the article which highlights their differences.  However, the article indirectly identifies the child victim by naming the father, his position at the school and the schools name thereby subjecting the child to secondary trauma.

By indirectly identifying the child, Sowetan has contravened on Section 8, 8.1 of the South African Press Code[2] which states, “The press shall therefore exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children under the age of 18”. It further reiterates in Section 8, 8.3 “The press shall not identify children who have been victims of abuse, exploitation, or who have been charged with or convicted of a crime, unless public interest is evident and it is in the best interests of the child”.

The identification of parents in cases like these may cause the child humiliation and embarrassment and as such, MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[3] encourages media to refrain from this, stating

“Even where you are trying to tell people about harm to children or another children’s issue or promote children’s rights, you always need to respect the best interests of the individual child”.

 Journalists must therefore respect children’s dignity and well-being.

MMA recognises the effort made by the journalist to report on the abuse endured by children at the hands of adults however urges journalists to protect the identities of children in instances where their well-being and safety is compromised.

We look forward to reading more articles by Sowetan in the future, that report on children in a manner that acts in their best interest.

By Nomshado Lubisi

[1] A MAD is given when a journalist reports on children in an irresponsible manner


[3] (see pg 2)