The Media Monitoring Project (MMA) congratulates Sunday World for the article “Healer kept kids as sex slaves” by Mthetho Ndoni (14/09/08, p.12). The article deserves to be nominated as a Mad Oat Glad because the victims were not identified or mentioned in the article. This provides a good example to other reporters and newspapers of how to report on such cases in a way that protects the best interests of children.
The article focuses on a healer who was charged with abducting and raping young children under the age of 15…According to the police; children were made to act “as his wives” (Sunday World,14/09/08, p12).
In this report Sunday World respected the privacy and dignity of the children by refraining from using any details that could be used to identify them, such as their names or photographs.
Protecting the children’s identities, in this case, is not only good ethical practice, but also adheres to legal requirements, such as those emphasized in the Criminal Procedure Act, Section 154(3). According to this Act, no person shall publish “in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity” of a child, who is accused or witness at criminal proceedings .
While protecting the identity of children in cases such as this may be a basic requirement according to legal and ethical frameworks, it is unfortunate that there have been so many cases highlighted by MAD OAT where children’s rights to privacy and dignity have been violated .
Well done Sunday World for showing that it is possible to report on cases of child abuse without further violating children’s rights, and subjecting them to further victimization.
We hope that this will continue to be standard practice for Sunday World, and that other reporters and newspapers will follow suite.
1. See UNICEF and MMP. 2003. all sides of the story – reporting on children: a journalist’s handbook, p.58.
2. See MAD OAT. 2008a.“School violence victim’s safety is jeopardized by right to privacy violation”; MAD OAT. 2008b. “Child’s life put in danger by journalist”; MAD OAT. 2008c. “The interests of the child are paramount”; MAD OAT. 2008d. “How newspapers protect or fail to protect abused children from further harm”; MAD OAT. 2008d. “Media needs to stop identifying child witnesses”.