As pupils interact every day in schools, sometimes unfortunate incidents happen, incidents such as conflict, violence or getting hurt by another pupil. Such is the case in this article reported by Sunday World, Mother of a child stabbed in the eye while at school left to fend for herself” (14/06/2020). In the article, the child involved is directly and indirectly identified and for that, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Sunday World a MAD.[1]

The article reports about a mother accusing the Free State Department of Education of not acting on her daughter’s ordeal by “turning a blind eye”. The article reports that the woman’s 14-year-old child was allegedly stabbed at school by another pupil in 2019. According to the article, the child was allegedly stabbed while getting into class with a “scissor on the eye” forcing her to drop out of school before year-end exams.

Both the child and her mother are named in the article and because of this, the journalist has violated the child’s right to privacy. 

Additionally, by directly and indirectly identifying the child, Sunday World has contravened Section 8.1 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media [2] which states, “The media shall therefore exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children. If there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she shall not be interviewed, photographed or identified without the consent of a legal guardian or of a similarly responsible adult and the child (taking into consideration the evolving capacity of the child); and a public interest is evident.” The article does not indicate whether fully informed consent was obtained from the child’s parent to identify her. Additionally, there is no public interest in knowing the identity of this child. Therefore, identifying her was not in her best interest.

MMA advises against the identification of the child because it has the potential to cause victimisation and humiliation to the child.

Our Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[3] urge the media to refrain from identifying children in such instances, 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.”

 MMA kindly requests Sunday World to withdraw the identity of the mother and child from the website and instead use pseudonyms to protect the child. Further, an explanation to readers should be given as to why the decision to withdraw the identities was taken.

MMA would like to see more articles from Sunday World on children’s issues that are reported ethically.

By Msizi Mzolo

[1] MADs are given to journalists who have irresponsibly reported on children and compromised their rights and welfare


[3] (see page 2)

UPDATE: Sunday World has since withdrawn the identities of the child and her mother from the article. Further, an explanation as to why the decision was taken to withdraw has been provided.