The Citizen gets a GLAD[1] from Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) for its article, “Mother, child despair” (28/08/2018, p.3) where the identities of two children swapped as new-borns at a hospital were protected.

The article written by Chisom Jenniffer Okoye reports on two mothers whose babies were swapped at birth by staff at a hospital in Boksburg. According to the article, “Four years ago, a court ordered that the error of the hospital staff … could not be rectified and that the children could be raised by the “wrong” mothers until they are 18.” The article reports that the children, a boy and a girl, are now eight years old and that every two weeks, the mothers meet so as to spend time with their biological children.

The journalist interviewed one of the mothers who in the article, speaks about the pain she has been enduring and the fear that “she would never have the same bond that the other mother has with her daughter”. The interviewed mother’s identity is withheld and the journalist explains that this is “to protect the identity of the children”. Further to this, the journalist hides the face of the interviewed mother in the two accompanying photographs. One of the photographs appears on the front page of the newspaper.

MMA would like to commend The Citizen and especially the journalist for this ethical reporting and for recognising the importance of withholding the identities of the children involved as this protects them from potential harm such as losing their sense of belonging as a result of people talking about them not being biological children of the parents. This might also potentially result in psychological harm which could easily affect their development and growth. Identifying the children either directly or otherwise would also have been a violation of their right to privacy which is guaranteed in the South African Bill of Rights Chapter 2 Article 14.

MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] advise journalists  saying, “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.” The way the journalist reported the story is in line with our Principles developed with input from children, child rights experts and media practitioners.

MMA hopes The Citizen will continue reporting on children in such an ethical manner.

By Jacques Ndong




[1] A GLAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted

[2] (Page 2)